Community comes together for COEA fundraiser

Michael Tortorich
Christopher Hussey and Katrina Branson dance to "Sweet Home Chicago."

Music and dancing filled the Gonzales Civic Center Friday night.

Community Opportunities of East Ascension benefitted from the “Dancing for a Cause” fundraising event.

COEA, founded in 1964 by a group of parents of children with developmental disabilities, works to enhance the quality of life for persons with disabilities and their families through services and advocacy.

The idea for the dance event was modeled after the popular television show “Dancing with the Stars.”

A COEA committee wanted a creative and fun idea to get the community involved with fundraising, so they modeled an event after the show by using local celebrities.

COEA is currently building a new respite center on Purpera Road in Gonzales. It will serve both individuals with disabilities and the elderly.

The facility will be the first of its kind in the River Parishes area.

It will be equipped with a generator and serve as an evacuation site in the event of a hurricane.

All of the tickets were sold out in advance of the show. Due to the response, it is expected to become an annual event.

The night included a dance competition, along with dance and musical performances.

Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux and Maxine Crump served as hosts.

The judges were Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson, television anchor Whitney Vann and journalist Darlene Denstorff.

The East Ascension Spartanettes opened the show with a dance routine.

Performers included Tasha, Prodigy, Erika Waguespack, Hip Hop Chicks, Tess Henry and Kianna Lomas.

The TCA Marching Drill Team Ministry, the Second Mt. Carmel Praise Dancers and Face of Praise Mime also entertained the crowd.

Kamal Zaher made a grand entrance prior to the dance competition. The Gonzales restaurant owner, nicknamed “The Lebanese Lover,” danced around the crowd to the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” as he handed out roses.

Zaher and Dana Gonzalez danced a cha-cha to open the competition.

It wasn’t enough to take home the trophy though. Ascnesion Parish Schools’ Supvervisor of Elementary Education Bridget Boudreaux and Guillermo Gonzalez won with their rumba.

When the moment of truth came, the pair garnered the most crowd applause.

Attorney Matt Pryor drew a reaction from the crowd by strutting around in a bright blue suit as he danced a West Coast Swing with Jewell Reid.

Juli Anna Green-Willis, a manager at Hambonz in Donaldsonville, and Cyle Webre sizzled with a salsa.

And Fran Baker and Andres Del Toro put on a smooth showing with Chicago Steppin’.

It was clear that all of the amateur dancers had been transformed through their hard work and practice.

Byron Calix and Alyssa Kling dazzled the crowd with a West Coast Swing and Guillermo Gonzalez and Danna Perry-Gonzalez danced to a Theatre Arts Waltz.

Christopher Hussey and Katrina Branson, both of Chicago, turned up the heat with their dance number. Starting off with a kiss, they blazed through a rollicking performance set to “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Kamal Zaher and Dana Gonzalez dance.