Orlando 'Dancing With the Stars' raises $86,000

By Hal Boedeker
Posted September, 19 2013

Dancing Central Florida celebrities such as Dr. Jan Garavaglia, Mark O'Mara and Jorge Estevez helped raise $86,000 for Community Based Care of Central Florida.

WFTV-Channel 9 anchor Estevez on Saturday won "Dance, Dream & Inspire," a local version of "Dancing With the Stars" at Hard Rock Cafe.

The goal had been $100,000. But was Debbie Leon, development director for Community Based Care, disappointed?

"Absolutely not," she said. "It's not always about money. Think about it this way. We had over 500 people in attendance Saturday night. Most of them were not familiar with Community Based Care of Central Florida, but now they know about the great work we do in Central Florida. Events like this are an opportunity to introduce new people to our mission face to face."

To help the foster-care organization, six local figures had competed on the dance floor. The others were attorneys Mark NeJame and Diana Tennis and banking executive Barb Scherer.

They helped raise money through a second contest: an online popularity vote that contributed $24,000 of the total.

CNN analyst Mark NeJame easily won that count with 13,698 votes, and each vote translated into a dollar. He had a running battle, via email blast, with O'Mara, who earned 3,645 votes, and Tennis, who had 3,434.

Last Friday, NeJame sent an email to Tennis, a former TV legal analyst, and O'Mara, who represented George Zimmerman, saying that the event was canceled and not to show up.

"NeJame wrote it in a way that they knew he was joking," Leon said. "When Diana found out that Mark O'Mara had more votes than her, she came out fighting."

In one, Tennis wrote: "Oh this is unacceptable -- it is a Friday the 13th nightmare! Coming for you O'Mara!"

Leon added, "Then emails were flying between them and other well-known attorneys all day on Friday."

All that good-natured bickering paid off for Community Based Care.