Dancing with Savannah Stars raises $90K for CASA

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The final numbers are in. The fourth annual Dancing With Savannah Stars fund-raiser for Savannah-Chatham Court-Appointed Special Advocates raised a record-breaking $90,000, and money is still being counted more than a week after the event. Twelve community leaders danced and raised money to help reach that goal, almost doubling last year's amount.

Representing WTOC-TV, I, Don Logana, reporter/dancer, along with my second family at WTOC and all of our great viewers, helped raise $16,105, so far, to contribute to the total.

To be able to say those words is incredibly gratifying, satisfying and humbling. Without all of you and my family in Syracuse, NY, Boston, Ohio, Atlanta, and my friends and loved ones in Savannah, the goal would never have been achieved.

In mid-July, I began what I thought would be a fun little dancing competition with hopes of raising a few bucks for a great charity, CASA.

I never danced, never fundraised on a major scale, and didn't know a whole lot about CASA and the irreplaceable work it does for more than 200 children in the community.

By Nov. 11, all of those things were a distant memory.

Not only did I become engrossed in spreading the word about CASA, but I took my two left feet to new levels, practicing and learning how to dance with the wonderful dance instructor Mack McKenzie, of McKenzie's Professional Ballroom, and my partner Courtney Byers. Both of them dedicated and donated their time to not only teaching me, but attending every single fundraiser I organized to make sure they were successful.

They were not paid for their efforts, they did not make me pay for their services. Mack and Courtney did it out of the love of what CASA does for children.

What I did not expect was how obsessed I became with making sure we raised as much money as possible. I set my goal at $10,000. CASA set the same goal for each dancer, with hopes all 12 of us would combine for $120,000. The most they had raised up to this point was more than $45,000.

Immediately, using Facebook, Twitter and WTOC's numerous ways of reaching viewers, we began asking for donations and folks to vote for me online. Other dancers did the same thing.

Jody Chapin and Tim Guidera had me on Mid-Morning Live every single Friday to show off my dancing progress. Jody was a cheerleader from the very beginning to the very end, even greeting me along my news director Jan Smith backstage after I danced. Without their dedication, the goals I had could not have been realized.

In August, my closest friends helped me brainstorm ideas for fund-raisers. Bonnie and Jessica Walden from Bay Street Blues on Bay Street immediately began raising money every Saturday night, and sometimes Fridays, selling special drinks for 15 minutes, with all the proceeds going to CASA. By November, they had raised more than $500.

McDonough's Bar on McDonough Street hosted our first fundraiser, Kamikaze Karaoke for CASA. The event, thanks to Billy Lee, Butch Lamb, Perry Foster and the gang at McDonough's, helped us raise more than $4,000.

A pub crawl, we humbly titled LoganaCon, throughout downtown Savannah, raised another $1,300. Carol and the Pinkie Masters staff volunteered to kick the event off with a lunch and raffles, which they did all on their own, and did a fantastic job dealing with a newbie event planner.

From Pinkies to O'Connell's to Jen's and Friends down to Wet Willies and the Warehouse, the pub crawl grew from 20 of us to more than 45.

Kevin Barry's Pub on River Street served some fried pickles and other appetizers. LiveWire and Peg Leg Pete's and Chuck's Bar hosted us next, with Angela and the staff at Chuck's doing special fundraising of their own, which added an extra $200 to our final total.

Club One Jefferson, Churchill's Pub and JJ Bonerz were the next three stops, and all welcomed the group with the final two stops ending back at Bay Street Blues and finally McDonough's, which became an unofficial headquarters for the "Logana CASA Campaign."

Leoci's Trattoria, Leopold's Ice Cream, Paulette Nelson with Shady Pines Boarding Kennel, LAVA 24 Fitness and Heavenly Spa at the Westin all gave their time, effort and donated items for various raffles and auctions. LAVA and Heavenly Spa combined for more than $600 for CASA through their donations.

Finally, I put myself on the spot, becoming the butt of all jokes, to give a final kick to my CASA campaign. The Creative Approach printed posters designed by WTOC's Chief Photographer Josh Jasso and Club One Jefferson hosted the "Roast of Don Logana" at the Bay Street Theater. With Mike Cihla as Roastmaster, and my best friends Brooke Kelley, Hena Daniels, Erica Backus, Tony Rahn, Jamey Espina, Ginger Fawcett, and Mauro Villacreses, with a special "early" appearance by Sonny Dixon, and a post-show appearance by Jody Chapin, we raised another $1300.

Cale Hall, Travis Coles and Travis Sawyer took time out of their schedules to help me plan the event and it went off without a hitch, with Ruel Joyner at 24e lending us furniture, giving us the pick of his store on Broughton Street and even letting us borrowing his moving van, and Franco and Lisa Marra of FraLi Gourmet graciously coming to the rescue at the last minute to cater the event. It was fantastic.

With the events over, WTOC sales rep Cara Lovins continued taking my donation box to multiple WTOC events. She was my cheerleader from the beginning.

Melissa Woodard of Wells Fargo Advisors orchestrated a plan for her company, to not only donate more than $2,000 to CASA, but also sponsor a LIVE webcast, which brought the Dancing With Savannah Stars event to WTOC.com for those who could not be there in person, including my awesome family. Craig Harney and WTOC's crew captured the event perfectly, which helped raise extra money and had Savannah talking the next day.

I danced that night of Nov. 10 at the Lucas Theater, and because of all of you, I won the Viewer's Choice Award.

My buddy Ginger Fawcett, of Liquid Ginger, took home the Best Female Dancer Award after a fiery and steamy Tango. Media Rival and creator of Eat It And Like It, Jesse Blanco, won the Best Male Dancer.

The final award is one which may be the most important of the night, as our goal all along was to raise as much money for abused and neglected children as possible. Dr. Katy Moretz raised more than $18,000 when the dust cleared after Nov. 10 to earn the Overall Fundraiser award.

Katy, along with Heather Burge of Blue Belle Bridal and Ashley Carson of Carey Hilliard's each joined me in raising more than $10,000 each, a first for the event, with the quartet all in the 15 to $18,000 range.  Ashley even danced while five months pregnant.

All 12 dancers, from where I sit, busted their tails to learn to dance and learn to raise money for this great non-profit. Melissa Phillips, frequent Mid-Morning Live guest and acupuncturist Isa Hollaway (who sent me the kindest e-mail following the event), Chris Donegan, Al Deutsch, an injured and always entertaining Kenya Cabine of E-93 FM, and another of my good friends, Project Runway alum and soon to be seen on Project Runway All-Stars next year, April Johnston (who was my personal favorite dance of the night), poured their hearts into preparing for this night, three months in the making.

We did it for free, and what we got in return was the most rewarding feeling I have ever felt.

It's because of you, we were able to do ALL of this for those children who have no one else, except the advocates CASA trains and puts in charge of these young lives.

For that, I thank all of you.

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