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

Local stars partner with professional dancers for 9th annual ‘Dancing with Our Stars’ Gala to raise money for rare genetic disorder

LITTLE ROCK, AR – On September 8, 2016, Arkansas celebrities will demonstrate their dance moves as they compete for the coveted mirror ball trophy at the 9th annual ‘Dancing with Our Stars’ Gala. Months of rehearsals with local professional dancers 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. Since its inception, the Dancing with Our Stars Gala has raised over $450,000 for NF research.

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.

Craig O’Neill, anchor at Arkansas CBS affiliate KTHV-TV, and Melissa Thoma, Principal at Thoma Thoma, Arkansas Chapter Advisory Board Member, and former Dancing with Our Stars competitor, will co-host the red carpet event.

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 Rachel Parker Harding, Community Relations for Parker Automotive Group, philanthropist and volunteer, dancing the west coast swing with dance instructor Tim Acosta from Little Rock Westies; Susan Hickingbotham, philanthropist and volunteer dancing the cha-cha with dance instructor Wesley Crocker from Beyond Ballroom; Stacey Spivey, general assignment reporter at ABC affiliate KATV-TV doing a tap dance with dance instructor Matt Boyce from Untapped; Win Rockefeller, President of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Foundation Board, President of Theseus Holdings, LLC and philanthropist, dancing a hip hop routine with dance instructor Sydney Kneuven from Dance Dynamics & Untapped Company; Dr. Chad Rodgers, partner at Little Rock Pediatric Clinic and Chief Medical Officer for Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, dancing the foxtrot with dance instructor Monika Crissler from Dance Time with Monika; and Hatim Smouni, Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch dancing a hip hop routine with dance instructor Devin Nelson from Rock City Dance Center.

“I’m honored to be involved with the Children’s Tumor Foundation in Arkansas,” said Win Rockefeller, participant. “Learning what a day in the life of an NF parent is like and what it’s like to live with the fear that their child will have a tumor that grows, the least I can do is dance for them, practice for them, and fundraise for them to support research efforts so that a cure may be found.”

“As a human dance museum, I look forward to showing off every year at Dancing with Our Stars,” said Craig O’Neill, KTHV-TV anchor and Dancing with Our Stars co-host. “But there is something else at work that people need to know about: the absolute, total, unconditional love of NF Heroes whose smiles have become so addictive over the years. In their honor, I will dance until I’m one hundred.”

“Many of my friends have participated in Dancing with Our Stars over the years,” said Susan Hickingbotham, participant. “I’m thrilled to join the ranks and be a part of the 2016 event. My goal is to educate my friends and family how we can help make a difference in the lives of children living with neurofibromatosis.”

“One of the most anticipated events of the year, Dancing with Our Stars brings together Arkansas society and community leaders for a night of dazzling dance moves and inspiring stories, “ said Lesley Oslica, Children’s Tumor Foundation Arkansas Chapter President. “We are grateful to all of the dancers, both the pros and our stars, for their time and effort that is helping us advance our mission to end NF.”

This year’s competition will be judged by former Dancing With Our Stars participants Dawn Scott, anchor at Arkansas CBS affiliate KTHV-TV, Thomas Blackmon, President of Blackmon Auctions, and Sarah Hutchinson Wengel, daughter of the Governor and First Lady of Arkansas.

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, please visit