‘Magical night’ at dance-contest gala raises $175K for Boys, Girls Clubs

Louie Sanchez (second from right), a Walmart supply-chain distribution-center general manager, and professional dancer Krisenna Hancock of The Studio perform during the 2023 Dancing For Our Stars at Ak-Chin Events Center. [Victor Moreno]

The color and excitement, to say nothing of the money raised for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sun Corridor, had organizers beaming and calling their second annual Dancing For Our Stars, this year at Ak-Chin Casino Events Center on Saturday, a success.

Nearly 550 people attended in person and more than 100 paid to tune in on livestream.

“It was a magical night,” said Patti Coutre, Maricopa development coordinator for Boys & Girls Clubs.

The dancing competition was modeled after the TV show “Dancing With The Stars.”

The big-prize winners were Mindy Melillo and Adam Leckie, superintendent of Casa Grande Elementary School District, for Judges’ Choice; Krisenna Hancock and Louie Sanchez, a Walmart supply-chain distribution-center general manager, for People’s Choice as well as Best Friendraiser ($25,000-plus raised); and Tracey Lopeman, superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District, and Erin Hildick for Showstopper.

Winners in the 2023 Dancing For Our Stars at Ak-Chin Events Center (from left): Mindy Melillo and Adam Leckie for Judges’ Choice; Krisenna Hancock and Louie Sanchez for People’s Choice and Best Fundraiser ($25,000-plus); and Tracey Lopeman and Erin Hildick for Showstopper. [Victor Moreno]
Pinal County luminaries were paired with professional dancers to develop their own routines and costumes. Voters could pledge money to their favorites.

Evelyn Casuga, Jeff Mitchell and former Maricopa Mayor Christian Price, all performers in the inaugural Dancing For Our Stars in 2022, were the judges.

“All of the dancers were incredible last year, but this year’s dancers raised the bar even more, especially as it relates to backup dancers and props,” said Matthew Lemberg, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs. “And we had so many people working behind the scenes that helped make this event so successful.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank our staff, our Board, and all of the other volunteers for all of their efforts.

“Donations are still coming in, but as of right now, this event generated over $175,000 for our organization.”

Organizers say giving to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sun Corridor is an investment in the future. Kids who are in the clubs’ after-school programs are less likely to be involved in crime or to use controlled substances or to engage in other risky behaviors.

They are more likely to get good grades and stay in school, according to club officials.

Boys & Girls Club computer education, Power Hour Homework Help, gym games and Youth of the Year competition, along with program staff, help kids and teens do better in school, stay physically fit, make healthy decisions, build skills and prepare themselves for productive adulthood, according to the organization.

Boys & Girls Clubs are more than just a fun place to go, though. The club motto is: To inspire and enable all young people, to realize their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.

The third annual Dancing For Our Stars will be March 23, 2024, once again at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Event Center.

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Here through the creative lens of Victor Moreno is a photo gallery capturing the spirit of the evening.