Brett White and Tina Shaw

Tygart Valley United Way CEO Brett White and Marion County Chamber of Commerce President Tina Shaw chat on stage to kick off the 2019 Dancing With the Stars, which was the last DWTS held in-person prior to the pandemic.

FAIRMONT — With the cancelation of the 2021 Marion County Dancing with the Stars, the Tygart Valley United Way has a hole in its funding to fill.

This week, the United Way announced that 2021 Dancing with the Stars event would be canceled due to concerns over rising case numbers of COVID-19 and complications with converting the show to a virtual format. According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, Marion County has 543 COVID cases, as of Friday, up from 429 cases in Thursday’s daily COVID report.

United Way CEO Brett White said it has been a challenging decision to make for everyone involved.

“We came up with several scenarios. We wanted to try and do it virtually, do it as a livestream, to do it on television. But ultimately the dancers as a group thought the best decision was to just cancel the event,” White said. “Certainly they’re disappointed and they’ve all put in so much work and we’re all just disappointed people won’t get to see all their work.”

The event pits duos of dancers against each other to see who can get the most sponsors and raise the most donations leading up to and during the final evening performance. Last year’s event was canceled before it could even get started, while this year’s has gone through doubt and postponing before finally being canceled.

Dancing with the Stars is usually one of the biggest contributors to the United Way’s annual campaign. Proceeds from the event are split between the United Way campaign and the Chamber of Commerce, which co-sponsors the event.

Now, as the deadline of the United Way’s campaign creeps closer, White isn’t sure what that means for the nonprofit and the social service agencies that rely on United Way funds to carry out their programs. Last year the campaign raised the most money in its history even with Dancing with the Stars being canceled, but this year White isn’t so optimistic.

“We’re struggling more this year, but I think everyone is across the entire nonprofit sector. The pandemic’s extenuation has really affected giving, involvement and all of the pieces we rely on for the campaign,” White said. “We’re going to do our best to convince donors to leave every dollar from Dancing with the Stars in the campaign... but of course we will honor any refunds people want from the event.”

White said the United Way’s 2022 campaign has raised around $470,000 of its $620,000 goal. However, that figure includes money raised from Dancing with the Stars. If donors request refunds, that total could shrink.

As a gesture of solidarity, the Chamber has offered to donate its half of the proceeds from the event totally to the United Way.

“Right now the needs in the community outweigh any profit the chamber would have made, so our officers and myself made the decision that after we pay back any refunds, the rest of the proceeds will stay with the United Way.” Chamber President Tina Shaw said.

Now all parties involved are working to implore advertisers and donors to keep their money donated to the United Way so it can continue to fund all of its dependent organizations.

“[The Chamber is] going to support community organizations and our nonprofits because that’s ultimately what’s going to make Marion County grow,” Shaw said. “When Marion County grows, everybody wins.”

Visit the Dancing with the Stars website for more information about the cancelation at www.marioncountydwts.com.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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