Dancing Like A Star For Autism

Dancers from the 2014 “Dancing Like a Star for Autism” are ready to compete and raise money for austism. The fifth annual event will be held Feb. 7 at the Pasquerilla Conference Center, 301 Napoleon St. in downtown Johnstown.

An art auction and a dance competition will put autism in the spotlight.

The fifth annual “Dancing Like a Star for Autism” will be held Feb. 7 at the Pasquerilla Conference Center, 301 Napoleon St. in downtown Johnstown.

The benefit is styled after TV’s “Dancing With the Stars,” with dancers competing with each other to earn the most donations from the crowd.

Funds raised will aid autism programs at Beginnings Inc. and Alternative Community Resource Program.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., with a cash bar and dinner buffet at 6:30, dance competition from 7 to 9 and dancing to a DJ from 9 to 11.

“We are looking forward to the community being part of the excitement as our competitors strut their stuff on the dance floor to raise awareness of autism and the effect a child’s diagnosis can have on a family,” said Paula Eppley-Newman, executive director of Beginnings Inc. “Having this joint fundraiser will enable our agencies to have a bigger impact, with proceeds benefitting each agency’s autism programming.”

When doors open, guests will see the newest component of the event, the Art for Autism silent art auction.

There will be artistic donations in an array of mediums from local artists, plus artwork created by children with autism who participate in a program at ACRP, facilitated by local artist, Kendra Pearl.

This artwork will include oil paintings, pen and ink drawings, hand-crafted jewelry and a small, handcrafted wooden blanket chest.

“This enables us to blend multiple forms of artistic expression into one wonderful event,” Pearl said. “Working with the students in ACRP’s autism school to create art has been a humbling experience for me.”

The dancing competition will once again be hosted by former television broadcaster Jim Penna as master of ceremonies.

This year’s panel of judges include Maestro Istvan Jaray, conductor of Johnstown Symphony Orchestra; Lyndsay Ward, news anchor from WJAC-TV; Cambria County Commissioner Thomas Chernisky; and Allegheny County Judge Dwayne D. Woodruff, and former Pittsburgh Steeler.

Woodruff played 12 seasons with the Steelers. He appeared in Super Bowl XIV as a rookie in 1980.

He was named Steelers MVP in 1982 and served as team captain during his final three seasons.

“We are pleased and honored that Judge Woodruff chose our event to attend and support,” Eppley-Newman said. “Not only is he a well recognized name in Steeler Nation, we know he supports and wants to strengthen children and families, which is our agency’s mission. It’s a great fit for us all.”

The confirmed all-star dance lineup includes Georgette Suskie and Carlos Carrasco; Alexandrea and Jose Otero; Rachel and Gregory Zaborowski; Lauren Topor and Thomas Leap; Janice Yursky and Emilie Sprincz; Tappin Tootsies from LeDance Academie; and Adrianna’s Arabian Jewels.

Dance couples or groups can choose from one of eight categories: Jitterbug, salsa, tango, waltz, hustle, rumba, cha-cha and swing.

Spotlight entertainment will be provided by Jim Donovan of Rusted Root fame and his percussion work with children on the autism spectrum.

Dancing awards and auction winners will be announced at 9 p.m.

“We’re not looking for professional dancers, but community members with a desire to help the cause,” said Frank Janakovic, executive director of ACRP. “There is no cure for autism, but there are a number of proven treatments that can assist an individual and their families after a diagnosis.”

Couples or groups will compete for trophies from the judges’ selection based on scores from the dance floor and a fan favorite voted on by the public for $1 a vote.

Everyone in the community can participate by voting for their favorite couple or dance group by sending a $1 vote to Beginnings Inc., 111 Market St., Johnstown, Pa. 15901, or going to the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies website at www.cfalleghenies.org.

After finding “Dancing Like a Star for Autism” under the event tab, the public can vote for a favorite dance couple or group or make a general donation to the event.

Once the completion is over, DJ Randy from Bo Moore’s Music will play dance tunes until 11 p.m.

Tickets are $50 per person, and tables of eight can be reserved in advance.

Eppley-Newman said there is limited seating available, and the deadline is Jan. 30.

Ruth Rice writes features for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5052. Follow her on Twitter @RuthRiceTD.​