Stars of Gunnedah Dance for Cancer raise $50,000 for Cancer Council NSW | Photos

Katie Johnson, Jodi Dolbel, Stacey Cooke and Ben Hennessy.
Katie Johnson, Jodi Dolbel, Stacey Cooke and Ben Hennessy.

Saturday saw 11 locals dance their hearts out for Cancer Council NSW.

Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club’s stage was all aglitter for the performances of Jodi Dolbel, Ben Hennessy, Stacey Cooke, Katie Johnson, Kate Oram, Linda Gallagher, Ray Darcey and Christine Day, Jack Jaeger, police officer Damian Wood, and Will Dowe in Stars of Gunnedah Dance for Cancer.

Will Dowe took out the Judge’s Choice, while Damian Wood won the People’s Choice Award. Linda Gallagher raised the most funds for the Cancer Council. The fundraising total is about $50,000, with money still coming in.

Stacey Cooke, Jodi Dolbel, Katie Johnson and Ben Hennessy said they each struggled with an attack of nerves ahead of their performances. 

“I wasn't really nervous in the lead-up to it but as soon as I was about to go on, I freaked out,” Mrs Cooke said.

Mrs Dolbel said she went into overdrive backstage.

“I had a massive anxiety attack and I had to go through the exercises but as soon as you get out there, it’s fine; it’s all muscle memory,” she said.

“We’d practised it so many times.”

Ms Johnson said she was afraid of forgetting the steps but it all came together when she went on stage with her cousin and dance partner, Jack Jaeger.

“He was fantastic,” she said.

“All I focused on was the story Jack and I were showing. I was so into it.

“The process has brought us so incredibly close… Jack is a breath of fresh air. He’s really pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

Ben Hennessy said he overcame his nerves when he and dance partner Rayna Russo got on stage.

“I felt reasonably nervous before going on, but we had worked hard and rehearsed thoroughly, so it was great to go out there and put on a great performance,” he said.

“Huge kudos for this goes to my dance partner Rayna Russo who is such an amazing talent and helped me every 'step' of the way.”

The three women said they were sad the experience was now at an end and felt they had rediscovered their childhood love of performance.

“It feels nice to find that little piece of yourself again,” Ms Johnson said.

Mrs Cooke and Mrs Dolbel said Stars of Gunnedah had given them the motivation to audition for Gunnedah Conservatorium’s production of Chicago.

“Doing dancing has given me back my confidence again,” Mrs Cooke said.

“I used to do theatre… and I loved it.

“That’s what prompted me to go for Chicago because it reminds me of the fun.”

It feels nice to find that little piece of yourself again.

Katie Johnson

The locals had plenty of stories about help and encouragement they received during the experience. Ms Johnson said Raema Wilby went out of her way to gather up dancing shoes for her to try when she struggled in her heels. Totally Dance Studios (TDS) dancers also cheered them on before they went on stage. 

“When I started to doubt myself as a 30-year-old, I was encouraged by a 10-year-old,” Ms Johnson said.

Mrs Cooke and Mrs Dolbel had plenty of praise for the TDS dancers who accompanied them in their performances.

“The professionalism from Totally Dance Studios has blown me away.”

Mr Hennessy said Stars of Gunnedah was well worth the experience and he would “definitely recommend it for others thinking about getting involved in the future”.

“The night delivered with plenty of laughs, some slick moves and a great night for all,” he said.

“[Fundraising of $50,000] is such an amazing result and testament to the generosity of the people and businesses of our town.”

Gunnedah residents Elizabeth Edwards and her son Dennis have accessed the Cancer Council's Transport to Treatment service. Photo: Supplied

Gunnedah residents Elizabeth Edwards and her son Dennis have accessed the Cancer Council's Transport to Treatment service. Photo: Supplied

Cancer Council’s Katharine Dubois said the funds raised in Gunnedah will go towards Inala House in Tamworth, home help for cancer patients, and the Transport to Treatment service. The Namoi Valley is serviced by a vehicle based in Narrabri.