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Dancing Toward a Brighter Future for People with a Genetic Disorder

Local celebrities participate in the ‘Dancing with Our Stars’ annual event to help end neurofibromatosis

LITTLE ROCK, AR — After months of rehearsals, local celebrities will demonstrate their dance moves at the eighth annual Red Carpet for Research event “Dancing with Our Stars,” on Thursday, September 10, 2015. Hosted by the Arkansas Chapter of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, the evening will take place at the Little Rock Marriott Ballroom in Little Rock, Arkansas and will raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds research into neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that affects one in 3,000 people. The evening will include pictures on the red carpet, a reception, a seated dinner, and dancing.

Craig O’Neill, Anchor at KTHV-TV in Arkansas will be a celebrity host, while two Arkansas Chapter Advisory Board Members will serve as Masters of Ceremony: Melissa Thoma, a former participant, and Rick Fleetwood, 2013 winner of the mirror ball trophy.

These stars are community leaders who have been paired with local dance instructors to compete for one of two coveted mirror ball trophies. This year’s lineup includes Sarah Wengel, daughter of the Governor and First Lady of Arkansas, dancing the Cha Cha with dance instructor Samy Rash from Fred Astaire Studio; Natalie Rockefeller, philanthropist and volunteer dancing the East Coast Swing with dance partner Chris Hoffman from Fred Astaire Studio; Matt Mershon, general assignment reporter at KATV Channel 7, dancing a Bachata fusion dance with dance instructor Monika Crissler from Dance Time with Monika; Dr. Clea Hupp, Associate Professor of History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, dancing the Cha Cha with dance instructor Wesley Crocker from Beyond Ballroom Studio; Kirk Bradshaw, financial advisor with Edward Jones Investments, dancing the Samba with dance instructor Melia Mellard from Fred Astaire Studio; and Nick Copas, vice president at Baldwin & Shell Construction Company, dancing the Cha Cha with dance instructor Lisa Harper.

“After researching the effects of NF and understanding the mission of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, it would have been hard to say, ‘no,’” said participant Nick Copas. “The courage that these children demonstrate is something that should be admired and appreciated. Taking that into consideration, it is much easier to find the strength to get in front of several hundred people and demonstrate my horrible dance moves.”

“The line-up of stars is creating buzz around town and the anticipation for this year’s gala is unprecedented,” said Lesley Oslica, Children’s Tumor Foundation Arkansas Chapter President. “All of these community leaders are already champions in the eyes of those living with NF and I am extremely grateful for the chance to work with each of them in our efforts to advance our mission to end NF.”

An evening of inspiration and celebration, this year’s event also recognizes a local family dedicated to advancing our mission to end neurofibromatosis. NF Hero Myleigh Marshall and her family will be honored with the “NF Courage Award” for their efforts in fundraising and raising NF awareness in the community.

The Children’s Tumor Foundation is committed to ending neurofibromatosis (NF) through research and raises awareness of the disorder through community events and a nationwide network of NF Clinics. NF is a genetic disorder that can cause tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. It affects millions of people worldwide and may arise in any family regardless of gender, race, or ethnic origin. Currently there is no cure.

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

About Children’s Tumor Foundation
The Children’s Tumor Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding effective treatments for the millions of people worldwide living with neurofibromatosis (NF), a term for three distinct disorders: NF1, NF2, and schwannomatosis. NF can cause tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body and may lead to blindness, bone abnormalities, cancer, deafness, disfigurement, learning disabilities, and excruciating and disabling pain. NF affects one in every 3,000 people, more than cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Huntington’s disease combined. The Children’s Tumor Foundation funds critical research into neurofibromatosis. In addition to benefiting those who live with NF, this research is shedding new light on several forms of cancer, brain tumors, bone abnormalities, and learning disabilities, ultimately benefiting the broader community. For more information, please visit

Lesley Oslica
Arkansas Chapter President, Children’s Tumor Foundation
501-205-0711 |

Rebecca Silver
Public Relations Manager, Children’s Tumor Foundation
646-738-8563 |