11th Annual Dancing With The Stars Raises Record Funds For The Center For Child Protection
By Rob Giardinelli Photography by Jeff Loftin, Christina Murphy and Haley Plotkin
THE SCENE: When the 1,000-plus of Austin’s social elite ascended the escalator to the fourth floor foyer of the JW Marriott hotel, they had no idea they were in for an evening where records were not just broken, they were smashed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. In the process, the 11th annual Dancing with the Stars will go down in the annals of Austin social folklore as a watershed moment of fundraising in Texas’ capitol city.
THE VIBE: The dapper, black-tie crowd wearing a mix of cocktail dresses, ballgowns, classic tuxedos and velvet sport coats began their evening in the foyer of the JW Mariott for a VIP cocktail hour which included the dancers themselves at various points to receive a final word of encouragement from their friends and supporters. The doors then opened to the grand ballroom where guests sauntered to their tables for the evenings program.
The Society Diaries’ own Lance Avery Morgan and T.V. personality and former Miss Texas Holly Mills-Gardner effortlessly kept the evening flowing as emcees. As guests dined, the program with touching testimonials to the importance of the Center for Child Protection to abused children. Following the testimonials, the live auction commenced which featured such coveted items as a trip to London for the opening matches of Wimbledon 2018 and a Caribbean yacht trip.
The action then turned to the main event as Morgan and Mills-Gardner introduced the three celebrity judges, KLBJ talk show host Ed Clements, KVUE anchor Quita Culpepper and Kell Cahoon, writer and producer of the USA Network hit show Psych. The 11 celebrity dancers kept the audience cheering all evening to lively and fun songs that kept the energetic tone.
After the performances, guests voted for their favorite routine and as the votes were being tabulated, presenting sponsor Lexus of Austin and Lexus of Lakeway raffled off a 2017 Lexus RX 350. After the emcees made it back to the dance floor to announce the record-shattering fundraising total, the dancers then made it back to the floor where Javier Aguirre and Azucena Perez were declared the winner. The energy remained high well into the evening as hundreds poured onto the dance floor to the tunes of DJ Chicken George.
THE CAUSE: The event, chaired by Francie Little and Jeanne Parker, raised a record $1.6 million dollars for the Center for Child Protection, exceeding the previous event record by almost $500,000 and in the process becoming one of the first organizations to raise over $1.5 million dollars for a single event. Over the last 25 years, the Center for Child Protection has served as children’s advocacy center for Austin area. Abused children admitted to the Center for Child protection receive essential services such as medical exams, counseling and intervention in a safe environment.