Tara Bias and Seanne McElrath took home both the Audience Choice and the Judge's Choice awards during Dancing For A Brand New Me's Saturday night, Oct. 17, performance. Photo by Stephanie Blakeman

Dancing For A Brand New Me raises funds, stunning dances entertain

Maybe it was the crowd rousing “YMCA” performance that made the night so enjoyable, or maybe it was the record-breaking donation amount received, but one thing is for sure: Pandemic or not, nothing can stop the powerful and fun Dancing For A Brand New Me event.

Dancing couple Tara Bias and Seanne McElrath emerged as victors, winning both the Audience Choice and the Judge’s Choice awards Saturday night, Oct. 17, under the lights at Arnold Field. Their on beat and visually stunning dances wowed both the judges and the audience.

On Friday night, the People’s Choice award, given to the team that raises the most money, went to Doria Dalu and Billy Hoffman, and the Audience Choice award went to Celeste Wiser and Jimmy Crandall.

During the two nights of competition, five different couples, a Susanville Star paired with a professional dancer, performed three dances each. This year showcased the talents of Celeste Wiser and Jimmy Crandall, Amanda Tannous and Joshua Blackburn, Elizabeth Darley and Luke Petersen, Doria Dalu and Billy Hoffman and Tara Bias and Seanne McElrath.

“I am incredibly proud of everyone that was involved. It was a challenging year, but worth it. I’m thankful for the support of our community, guidance from public health, and the hospitality of our high school,” said Lassen Family Services Executive Assistant Carla Dollar. “The thousands of hours invested by our volunteers and staff helped us to brought in a record-breaking financial support.”

This year’s judges included Eric Perry, Mendy Schuster, Terra Avilla and Jillaine Singleton. Jeremy Couso served as the Master of Ceremonies.

Dancing For A Brand New Me is Lassen Family Services’ primary fundraising event, which supports services provided to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

The 2020 Dancing For A Brand New Me contestants cheer on this year’s winners. Photo by Stephanie Blakeman

This year so far, Dancing For A Brand New Me has brought in $25,377, before the expenses to put on the show.

This amount was raised through ticket sales and donations from those watching the event through live stream, and also through the efforts of the Stars who sought sponsorships and donations, said Dollar.

“Dancing For A Brand New Me is a fun event, it’s amazing, but let’s not forget the importance of why we are here. We stand here tonight to raise awareness for domestic violence, we stand together as a community united — united in our determination to end domestic violence,” said Lassen Family Services Executive Director Angela Reed Saturday.

She continued, saying Lassen Family Services serves an average of 300 survivors annually.

“I always say, when they walk through our door, that’s when they go from victim to survivor. Lassen Family Services is honored to stand with survivors and help them secure the safe and secure future they deserve by offering counseling, advocacy, legal assistance, shelter and referrals to other community resources.

Eric Perry, owner/administrator of Diamond Peak Boys Home, served as the impact speaker for the night, sharing the impact domestic violence can have.

Perry spoke about how the affects of domestic violence impacts youth, and foster youth.

Impact Speaker Eric Perry speaks to the Dancing For A Brand New Me audience. Photo by Stephanie Blakeman

About 3.3 million children will witness domestic violence this year, Perry said, adding traumatic events experienced when neuropathways are being formed can significantly alter the child.

“Long exposure to trauma can be incredibly devastating, but proper intervention can be incredibly miraculous,” Perry said.

Perry, who has worked with troubled teens for more than 30 years, shared a story of a young man who entered the foster care system when his mother committed an act of domestic violence.

“Six foster homes and six residential care facilities later, he landed with me,” said Perry, adding he then flourished in sports and academics. “Everything appeared to be perfect after 18 months with us. Unfortunately, there was still work to be done. The trauma that he had experienced through his life had not been properly addressed, so domestic violence made its way into his life.”

Although some trouble crept into his life, Perry said it’s amazing to see the love and care the young man now shows to his children and significant other.

“It doesn’t always boil down to toughness. It doesn’t always boil down to a willingness to change. Sometimes it may just boil down to how their brain was affected when they experienced the trauma they experienced, particularly when that drama is repeated,” Perry said.

This work, and the work of foster parents, is not easy but it’s the most rewarding, he continued.

“The people who do what they do in the field of social services continue to amaze. They never give up, they don’t judge, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with Lassen Family Services directly with victims of domestic violence,” Perry said.

He added, supporting events like this one, or making donations to agencies like Lassen Family Services are important because they are serving those in need.

Dancing For A Brand New Me has been annually raising funds for LFS for seven years, and Dollar has been a part of it for two, and she’s not stopping her participation in the program despite moving on from her position at the agency. The dancers recognized her efforts Saturday night.

Event attendees were also able to watch performances from JandJ Performing Arts, the Lassen High School cheerleaders and drill teams, Joan’s Studio of Dance and House of Dance. There was also a moment to sing “Happy Birthday” to judge and past participant Terra Avilla.

While the event is over, those wishing to donate can visit the Lassen Family Services website.