Dance United raises $56,000 for United Way


Luke Sawyer proposes to partner Barbara LaBree after their performance during Dance United on Nov. 16 in McGuirk Arena.

A record-setting amount of money will help support the United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties after about $56,000 was raised during Dance United. 

This year, 15 teams put on their dancing shoes and competed to see who could raise the most money through the fundraising event held Nov. 16 at Central Michigan University's McGuirk Arena. 

The two teams that raised the most money, a combined $26,000, were Adam Wheeler and Julie Rush, and DJ and Rachel Blizzard.

The money raised will go to United Way, an organization that provides resources to improve health, education and financial stability in communities.  

Tom Olver, president of United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties, said he was excited about the turnout.

The event revealed the commitment Mount Pleasant residents have to their community, and the commitment between two of its residents.

Luke Sawyer, chief of the Shepherd Police Department, proposed to his fiancée, Barbara LaBree, on stage after their performance. The proposal was an orchestrated surprise that neither Sawyer's or LaBree’s family knew about.

United Way asked Sawyer to compete in the event. At first, Sawyer was skeptical due to his lack of dancing experience.

“I was not sure if I was going to participate at first,” Sawyer said. “Then I thought of my duty to serve the community and decided to set aside my pride and dance.”

After making the decision to participate, Sawyer asked his soon to be fiancée to join in on the experience and be his dance partner. Sawyer chose the song “Footloose” and looked to the coaches and United Way staff members to help with the rest.

“We could not have done it if it wasn’t for our amazing coaches Gabe Carlini and Lexi Thompson from the CMU Dance Team,” LaBree said.

Sawyer and LaBree were nervous because they were one of the last teams to perform.

“It was a lot of fun to watch the other teams and their talent, but also created nervousness for me considering all of the talent that was there,” Sawyer said. 

LaBree said she was comforted by the family-like environment.

“Everyone was extremely encouraging, which helped with the anxiousness about preforming,” LaBree said.

When it was time for Sawyer and LaBree to perform their routine, nobody was prepared for the finale. After the duo landed their last move, Sawyer proposed to LaBree on stage. The crowd roared after she said yes.

“I have been on a wonderful journey with her so far, and thought that this journey would create a fun environment for me to propose,” Sawyer said.