CEDAR CITY — The annual “Dancing with the Community Stars” event raised more than $85,000 for the Iron County Children’s Justice Center, organizers said.

Judges’ choice winner Becca Whittaker and Matt Edwards perform a 1950s ballroom dance during “Dancing with the Community Stars” fundraiser, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 14, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Performing before a packed house at Cedar City’s Heritage Center Theatre on Tuesday evening, selected community members teamed up with their professionally trained partners as they made their way through a variety of musical selections spanning almost a century. 

The evening’s eight competitors were, in order, as follows: mortgage broker Mark Gibson, civic and university leader Tessa Douglas, chiropractic doctor Becca Whittaker, civil engineer Dallas Buckner, real estate associate Rene Cole, real estate agent Matt Bagley, Parowan Mayor Mollie Halterman and banking official Cordelle Morris.

Keeping with the theme of “Dancing through the Decades,” the numbers were presented in chronological order, starting with the 1930s jazz number “Rock It for Me” and ending with a hip-hop performance of “Get Low” from the early 2000s. 

After each of the performances, the panel of four judges took turns giving feedback and assigning a score between 1-10. In actuality, the range was much narrower, as the only scores handed out were 9’s and 10’s all evening. Even so, a couple of the judges tried to crank it up to 11 a few times, with Randy Allen even attempting to give a 12 to Buckner.

“The bar was set high right from the first,” said fellow judge Dave Staheli, who was one of last year’s top winners.

The judges’ choice award went to Whittaker, who teamed with Matt Edwards in performing a ballroom dance to the 1950s Frank Sinatra hit “Come Fly With Me.” In her introductory video clip, Whittaker shared her remarkable story of recovery from a physically debilitating health issue a few years ago.

Cordelle Morris and Brooke Randall perform a hip-hop dance during “Dancing with the Community Stars” fundraiser, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 14, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The people’s choice award went to Morris, who teamed with dance partner Brook Randall for their “Get Low” performance, clad in black and gold jumpsuits and sporting white headbands.

The final trophy given out was the prestigious grand champion award, given to the “mover and shaker” who raised the most money for the Iron County Children’s Justice Center. That award went to Buckner, who paired with Melissa Lyman in performing to the Elvis Presley hit “Jailhouse Rock.”

Earlier in the evening, the Tom Braun Award for Outstanding Service in the Community was presented to Jennifer Davis, board president of Friends of Iron County Children’s Justice Center.

Organizers thanked the attendees and sponsors for their generous support, which will help the center continue to provide a comprehensive range of services and support for victims of child abuse.

Construction of Iron County’s new children’s justice center facility is already underway, with officials having broken ground in Enoch last month.

“While we’re having a top-notch entertainment and friends’ night, we know we are here for a purpose – a community coming together to support our children’s justice center,” said Wendy Jessen, director of Iron County Children’s Justice Center.

Other highlights of Tuesday’s program included intermediary numbers performed by the IMPAC Troupe, Ignite Tour Company, Tiana Green and event hosts Tamera Merkley and Brandon Burk.

All competitors took the stage at the end for the grand finale, dancing to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”

For more information about the Iron County Children’s Justice Center, including how to donate, visit its page on Iron County’s website or call 435-867-4275.

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