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Dancing with the Fundraisers

Discovering moldy equipment that needed replacing prompted a new fundraiser for the Davenport North (Iowa) High School. The resulting Dancing with the Stars comedy event drew 500 attendees and raised nearly $5,000. 

When preparations for the upcoming basketball season began, the boys' team at Davenport North (Iowa) High School had a shock--its practice jerseys had been piled and left unwashed in a storage room. Due to mold and mildew that had grown, the jerseys needed to be replaced before practices started.

"To do that, we had to raise about $5,000 and we needed it quickly," says event organizer Shelly Ortega. "My sister lives in a neighboring town and had just been part of a really successful fundraiser, so I had the idea fresh in my mind and offered to take on the project."

With just three weeks to prepare, Ortega put together a "Dancing with the Stars" comedy event, based on the popular TV show, as well as the neighboring school's fundraising adaptation. Since she was working under a tight deadline, Ortega asked several people from various areas of the school to choreograph and perform a dance routine, either with one dance partner or with a group of people--rather than waiting for people to volunteer on their own. She also asked well-known members of the community to serve as the MC and judges.

"I asked our high school's booster club president to act as the event's MC," Ortega says. "He knows almost all of the kids in the school, and he's also just a really funny person who can come up with things off the cuff.

"Then I asked people whose personalities are similar to what is seen in the TV show's judges to fill those roles," she continues. "I had a teacher who is dramatic, over-the-top fun, and a favorite amongst her students; a town firefighter and student-athlete's parent who has a dry sense of humor and is well-known within the community; and then someone who is supportive and can get really emotional. That person had a family commitment come up at the last minute, so I ended up filling that role myself."

As for the dance competitors, Ortega recruited groups from nearly every area of the school, including sports teams, teachers, coaches, parents of student-athletes, and the assistant principal. "I also got the dance team involved," she says. "Their leader helped some of the groups prepare and practice their dances for the show.

"The dance team members also performed a few times, although they weren't included in the competition," Ortega continues. "But to make sure they got something for their effort, I asked if they wanted to hold a bake sale during the event, so they were happy for the recognition and the chance to raise some money for their team."
 
Altogether, there were 16 acts in the show, each lasting about two minutes. Ortega had planned and scripted the show so it would last two hours. "I knew that each performance would end up taking about five minutes, if you count the time they dance and then have the judges' comments," she says. "So that gave me a benchmark to give each group as they planned their dance."

Just as the TV show's viewers judge its outcome, this event's winners were chosen by the audience's votes. "I placed a 'Voting Box,' on the stage for each group," Ortega explains. "And then people voted by putting money in the boxes. I had planned on people maybe dropping a dollar or two for their team. But I was blown away--we made as much money with the voting boxes as we did with the ticket sales, which sold for $8 general admission and $5 for students."
 
Each of the three winning groups received a small "disco ball" trophy that lit up and spun. The prizes went to the group that sold the most pre-sale tickets for the event, that raised the most money from voting, and a group chosen by the judges. "We didn't know which one to pick," Ortega says. "So we went with the group that had raised the second-most money with voting."
 
The final numbers aren't in yet, but Ortega is confident that the team will be able to purchase its new jerseys. "We fell a little short of the amount we needed to raise," she says. "But one of the parents videoed the show and we will sell DVDs for $12. We're planning on doing some simple cuts and adding in credits--nothing too fancy.
 
"I had worked out the expenses, so we'll be able to make $10 on each one," she continues. "The way my phone has been buzzing today, I have no doubt that we'll be able to get to $5,000 once the DVD profits are in."
 
For more information or a DVD, you may contact Ortega at s.ortega@msn.com.



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