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Arkansas Celebrities Perform in Dance Competition to Raise Money for Children’s Tumor Foundation

Local stars partner with local dance instructors for the annual ‘Dancing with Our Stars’ Gala
to raise money for a rare genetic disorder; this year’s 10th Anniversary Spectacular will bring total monies raised to over $1 million dollars

LITTLE ROCK, AR – On September 7, 2017, Arkansas celebrities will show off their dance moves as they compete for the coveted mirror ball trophy at the 10th Anniversary Spectacular ‘Dancing with Our Stars’ Gala. Months of rehearsals with local dance instructors will culminate in a one-time performance that raises money to fund critical neurofibromatosis (NF) research, supports local NF clinics, and sends Arkansas teens to NF Camp.

Hosted by the Arkansas Chapter of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, the evening, which includes pictures on the red carpet, a reception, a seated dinner, and dancing, will take place at the Little Rock Marriott Ballroom in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Anniversary Spectacular will also feature a special video presentation featuring ten years of Alumni Stars. Since its inception, the Dancing with Our Stars Gala has raised over $845,500 for NF research; after this year’s 10th Anniversary Spectacular, the total will surpass $1 million dollars.

“The 10th Anniversary Spectacular is an opportunity to reflect on the phenomenal growth our organization has made and on our lovely daughter Leslie Godwin, who has NF and who danced at that first gala in 2007, capturing the People’s Choice Award,” said Hubert and Diane Barksdale, philanthropists and inaugural Dancing with Our Stars sponsors. “Our family is forever grateful for the hard work of our NF medical teams and for the participation of the dancers and the community who have joined our fight to end NF. When that day comes we will all stand up and dance together!”

Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body and may lead to blindness, deafness, bone abnormalities, disfigurement, learning disabilities, disabling pain, and cancer. It affects millions of people worldwide and may arise in any family regardless of gender, race, or ethnic origin. There is currently no cure.

These dancing stars are community leaders who have been paired with local dance instructors to compete for the coveted mirror ball trophy. This year’s lineup includes Wendy Cook, owner of Big Rock Yoga and the founder of Big Rock Outreach, performing with John Browning of High Voltage Dance Company; Carla Emanuel, Founder, Red Garden Design’s Cancer Survivor Pin & Volunteer, performing with Brandyn Smith of Director of Dance at Southern Arkansas University (SAU); Terry Masching, financial advisor and principal owner of The Masching Financial Group, performing with Sydney Kneuven of Dance Dynamics & Untapped Company Member; D.J. Williams, Former Arkansas Razorback & NFL Player and current Host of KARK 4 Today, performing with Chante Duncan of Funk Fusion Dance Company; Steve “Wild Man” Wilson, Producer and host of statewide radio program “CALL OF THE WILD”, performing with Marisa Kirby of Ms. Karen’s Dance Studio; Suzanne Yee, owner, Dr. Suzanne Yee Cosmetic & Laser Surgery Center, performing with Wesley Crocker of Beyond Ballroom

For the first time, local stars will be partnered with local NF Heroes, children living with NF, who will visit during dance lessons, provide encouragement and cheer from the sidelines during each performance at the Gala.

“I can’t get enough of my NF Hero Myleigh Marshall and her spirit, so much joy in someone who has reason not to be,” said D.J. Williams, participant. “I love supporting events like this and being an example that we must come together and give back, even when we don’t have a personal tie. When we see a need to help, and we help because it’s the right thing to do and because we can!”

“Dancing in front of a crowd of more than 400 people isn’t easy, but then you see the parents of the NF Heroes and the sweet young eyes of those children living with NF, and you realize that the nervousness you feel is nothing in comparison to the nervousness those parents feel every time their child has a scan or a tumor appears under their skin,” said Win Rockefeller, philanthropist and winner of the 2016 Dancing with Our Stars Best Performance. “You see the hope in eyes of the parents and their love for their kids, and you push your nervousness aside.”

“As I pause to reflect on the growth over the last 10 years, it’s clear that this event has touched the lives of many Arkansas families affected by NF, whether it’s providing a sense of hope and camaraderie, confidence in knowing we are funding remarkable NF research, or through sponsorships that send teens to NF Camp,” said Lesley Oslica, Children’s Tumor Foundation Arkansas Chapter President. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude for ‘Our Stars,’ sponsors, guests, dance instructors, Gala committee, and our advisory board of directors, all of whom have made the success of this event possible and helped us advance our mission to end NF.”

Melissa Thoma, Principal at Thoma Thoma, Arkansas Chapter Advisory Board Member, and former Dancing with Our Stars competitor, and Daniel Robinson, Vice President at Arvest Bank, and winner of the 2013 Dancing with Our Stars Best Performance,  and Arkansas Chapter Advisory Board Member, will co-host the red carpet event.

“It has been an honor to support the Children’s Tumor Foundation as Emcee for Dancing with Our Stars these past three years,” said Melissa Thoma. “When I see the children and families impacted by the Foundation and its work, I am inspired to do my part to help bring awareness and raise funds for this excellent organization.”

Online voting is now open. Supporters can vote for their favorite dancers any time before the event or in person on the night of the gala. For more information or to purchase tickets, sponsor, or vote,