Dancer braves stage to help center (video)

Camille Doty

Aug. 26, 2012 at 3:26 a.m.
Updated Aug. 27, 2012 at 3:27 a.m.

Dance instructor Sharon Petty leads a group rehearsal on Sunday for "Dancing with the Stars - Victoria Style" competition. Proceeds will go to the Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach, an alcohol and chemical dependency treatment facility.

Dance instructor Sharon Petty leads a group rehearsal on Sunday for "Dancing with the Stars - Victoria Style" competition. Proceeds will go to the Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach, an alcohol and chemical dependency treatment facility.

Sara Hounshell may not be a natural dancer, but she's willing to try for a noteworthy cause.

The 32-year-old Paoli, Ind., native devoted countless hours preparing to waltz for the sake of an alcohol and chemical dependency treatment facility - Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach.

Hounshell, a federal judge clerk, hopes to spin her way into the title of dancing champion as she competes in the "Dancing with the Stars-Victoria Style" fundraiser on Thursday at the Leo J. Welder Center.

"Dancing in front of a crowd - especially something as elegant as the waltz - is way outside my comfort zone," she said.

"I chose to devote my summer and risk public humiliation to help further BTCRO's cause."

Five teams will participate in the third annual fundraising effort.

The group consists of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who have volunteered their time to learn an individual and group routine.

Money is raised through ticket sales, sponsorship, silent auction items, and crowd votes. Fans cast votes for their favorite couple for $10 each. Teams are eligible to win two awards, for the best dance and most money raised.

This year's theme, "A Night at the Movies," will take the audience back to the cherished cinematic moments while watching their loved ones do the rumba, tango, waltz, jitterbug and cha-cha.

Teammates made jokes and moves during practice. Some dancers said their style is the most difficult.

"The tango is the most intricate," said Marla Hartman.

Her partner, Mike Rivet, wants to win big. "We want to win for the most money, but we also want to be the best dance," he said.

Although the evening will be filled with entertainment, the reason behind it is much greater.

"This event raises funds and awareness while reducing the stigma of alcoholism," said Susan Cattan Rybak, the widow of Billy T. Cattan.

Rybak said the fundraiser generated about $96,000 in previous years.

Her goal is to bring in $70,000 this time to support the faith-based center that serves 500 clients each year.

The outpatient facility offers counseling for individuals waiting to enter residential treatment, returning from residential treatment needing aftercare, and individuals who are able to maintain sobriety in an outpatient modality.

A group of community leaders founded the Cattan center in November 1999 and was named in memory of Billy T. Cattan. He died from cancer two months before the center opened.

Hounshell knows first-hand the challenges recovering addicts face because of her stepfather.

Glen Carmichael was a recovering alcoholic who received his 34-year chip of sobriety in January. He died a month later.

Before Carmichael's death, he went to school in his mid-50s to become a drug and alcohol counselor and spent the remainder of his life helping others.

Hounshell remembers the late night phone calls people would make to the house because they needed help.

Although he was sober for more than a quarter of a century, Carmichael told his family each day was a struggle.

"Glen's addiction and recovery were a huge part of who he was," Hounshell said. "He was the best counselor because he never judged but gave tough love."

Hounshell has watched ballroom DVDs, practiced during her lunch break, and taken zumba classes to become more comfortable on stage just to prepare for the dancing debut.

Her newfound confidence makes up what she may lack in height.

"I have a tall attitude," she said smiling.

Choreographer Sharon Petty said Hounshell learned to relax during the rehearsals. Petty calls the waltz dancer Miss Graceful.

"She's transformed into a butterfly," Petty said.

Chris Hanson, Hounshell's partner said his team has made vast improvements and feels confident they have a shot at winning.

"We're totally prepared and got the routine down," he said.

Hounshell said she will not rest on the laurels of her developed skill sets.

"We're getting down to the wire. It's crunch time," she said.

The Indiana University alumna's discipline for the competition doesn't surprise her mother, Carolyn Carmichael.

She said Hounshell has always been focused, graduating with honors one year early. The proud mother will make her first trip to Victoria to see the dancing performance.

"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, she's dancing,'" Carmichael said jokingly. "Sara isn't coordinated,"

Carmichael, who lives in Indiana, said she's a fan of the hit TV show. She held back tears describing the feeling she will have watching the dancing competitor she raised.

"This is my little girl, and I'm just so proud of her," Carmichael said.

Hounshell will think about her stepfather before she makes her first turn on stage. "This experience has been a meaningful way for me to honor his memory."



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