A record 1,100 guests filled the grand ballroom at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center on Jan. 18 for a sold-out celebration for the Denton County community, hosted by United Way of Denton County.
In addition to recognizing several organizations and individuals for their dedication to improving and transforming lives in Denton County, United Way of Denton County announced $2.3 million raised by the community, and two community dancers were crowned Champions of “Dancing with Our Stars.”
Denton County’s largest nonprofit gala combined award designations with dancing by a cast of 26 community volunteer dancers, according to a UWDC news release. The highlight of the night brought 25-year United Way of Denton County volunteer Ellen M. Painter to the stage amidst a standing ovation for a touching acceptance of the 2020 Dr. Bettye Myers Humanitarian Award, the first given since the passing of its namesake and Denton County icon.
“Bettye, we all love you and miss you,” Painter said as she accepted her honor.
Other awardees of the night included: City of Lewisville – Better Tomorrow Award; Morrison Milling – Community Spirit Award, DATCU Credit Union – LIVE UNITED Award; Atmos Energy – Creating Lasting Change Award, City of Denton – Trailblazer Award, Safran Electrical & Power – Advancing the Common Good Award, and finally, Peterbilt – Chairman’s Choice Award, with General Manager Jason Skoog presenting a $485,955 check.
“This celebration is a fitting end to a great year,” said UWDC Board Chair Brandon McCleskey. “A year made possible by all of the people in this room and our exceptionally generous community.”
The featured entertainment of the evening was the crowd-favorite “Dancing with Our Stars,” showcasing thirteen couples from across Denton County who volunteered countless hours since October to learn a group and solo dance under the direction of Gladys Keeton, Professor Emeritus of Dance at Texas Woman’s University. After the audience votes and judges’ technical scores were tabulated, the winners of the coveted Mirror Ball Trophies were Sue Bowman and Paul Voorheis of Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford Lewisville and DATCU Credit Union, respectively.
Dr. Sheri Dragoo, who recently accepted a position at Baylor University, was also celebrated as the creator of UNITED Tribute which has seen monumental growth since its inception in 2012. The eighth annual UNITED Tribute generated nearly $245,000 for United Way of Denton County, a significant 85% increase in gross revenue over last year.