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Dancing with the Statesboro Stars
Second annual event on Oct. 4 to benefit Safe Haven of Statesboro
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Dionne Gamble, coordinator of attendance for Bulloch County Schools, and Jimmy McNeely, owner of McNeely Landscape; taught dance for five years

    In early October, the stars will shine in Statesboro as two dozen local celebrities and trained dancers pair up to raise money and awareness for victims of domestic violence.
    The Second Annual Dancing with the Statesboro Stars is a night of dancing and entertainment to raise money for Safe Haven of Statesboro, the domestic abuse shelter that serves adult and child victims in Bulloch and five surrounding counties.
    Mary Hardin, the shelter’s executive director, said she is excited about the expanded possibilities now that the performances will be held at Georgia Southern University’s Performing Arts Center on Oct. 4.
    “We’re looking forward to this event. It will be bigger and better than last year,” Hardin said. “We have more participants in a bigger space, and we just want everyone to come out and have a fun and entertaining evening.”
    Kathy Kicklighter, the crisis case manager for Safe Haven, also is looking forward to the event because she found last year’s so entertaining.
    “It was wonderful. The community support of Safe Haven was amazing, coming together to support the victims of domestic violence,” Kicklighter said. “(Dancing with the Statesboro Stars) is a great way to have fun in the community and to raise money for a good cause at the same time.”
    According to Kicklighter, the agency takes calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. She said during these calls, case managers determine the level of service the caller needs — whether they need counseling, shelter or protective orders.
    “Sometimes it’s the start of rebuilding a life — free from abuse,” Kicklighter said.
    Safe Haven Statesboro is a program under the direction of the Citizens Against Violence Board that serves Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Jenkins, Screven and Washington counties. In 2011, Safe Haven provided 1,240 services to adult and child victims of abuse.  That number includes 521 crisis calls, 141 women and 157 children taking refuge at the shelter, as well as outreach services such as counseling and legal advocacy for 373 women and 238 children. In addition, 16 families — including 29 children — were part of Safe Haven’s transitional living program, which helps victims break the cycle of violence and start a new life.
    The statistics surrounding domestic violence are staggering. According to the Georgia Fatality Review, 63 percent of boys between the ages of 11 and 20 charged with homicide were arrested for killing their mother’s abuser. Six in 10 domestic violence cases involve children, and 70 percent of offenders in treatment for domestic violence witnessed domestic violence as a child.
    In Georgia’s fiscal 2011 budget, the state cut $85,000 from Safe Haven’s bottom line, leaving the shelter scrambling for funds. Hardin encourages all to buy tickets for the event and to go to the shelter’s website,, and donate $1 to vote for their favorite couples because Safe Haven needs the community’s support.
    “We really do need the money. The state funding is no better than it was two years ago,” Hardin said.  “Contrary to what some have said, our funding has not been restored, so we’ve tried to adapt and overcome.”
    Phil Boyum, a radio host and marketing consultant at Georgia Eagle Media, will return as emcee for Dancing with the Statesboro Stars.
    When he agreed to host last year’s performance, he was happy to help Safe Haven but was admittedly a bit skeptical about the dancing. One dress rehearsal immediately put those fears to rest.
    “When I went to last year’s run through, I didn’t know what to expect. As I watched the couples rehearse, it was apparent straightaway that these folks had devoted tons of time and effort to practicing and had absolutely poured their hearts into their performances,” Boyum said. “Frankly, I was completely blown away by the commitment, dedication and talent of the stars and the dancers. I expect this year’s group to be just as amazing.”
    Last year’s winners, Noel Brown and Ryan Marsh, will make an encore performance while the judges’ scores are being tallied.
    Dancing with the Statesboro Stars will be held at the Georgia Southern’s Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Oct. 4, starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at the PAC box office by calling (912) 478-0830 or online at
    Two awards will be presented the night of the performance. Three judges will score the dancers, and the highest total will be given the Judges Choice Award. But the Community Choice Award is where members of the public can choose their favorite dance couple. This award goes to the couple that receives the most votes on Safe Haven’s website.
    To donate items to Safe Haven, such as clothing, furniture, household items, toys or kitchen items, there is a drop off site at First Presbyterian Church on Fair Road. The local Safe Haven hotline is (912) 764-4605 or you may call toll free at (800) 33-HAVEN (334-2836).

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