LUMBERTON — The United Way of Robeson County took the first steps in its annual fundraising campaign on Thursday at Biggs Park Mall in Lumberton toward what it hopes will be raising $580,000 with a little big of dancing.
“This is our campaign kickoff night. Each year we do a kickoff night that goes to help our community,” said JoAnne Branch, United Way of Robeson County Long-term Recovery specialist. “We hope that people will learn about the United Way, what we do in the community, and support us either through giving, volunteering their time, or for being a advocate.”
The event was held inside the mall around a center stage surrounded by chairs full of excited children who couldn’t wait for the first-ever mascot dance-off. Fundraising board members stood near the stage with a sign showing the 2018 goal of $580,000.
“We will exceed goal,” said Latricia Freeman, county United Way executive director.
Freeman wants everyone to remember that it’s not about the goal but about fulfilling a need.
“But we need the resources,” she said.
Event attendees also were able to learn about the 18 partner agencies and more than 70 programs the United Way of Robeson County provides to address the most pressing needs in local communities.
Each year, United Way of Robeson County conducts a countywide fundraising campaign to support the charitable organization’s mission of promoting education, health, and financial stability all Robeson County residents. This year’s campaign will encourage residents and businesses to “Give Where You Live.”
“One hundred percent of what you donate stays in the county,” Freeman said.
Chelsea Biggs, manager of the Biggs Park Mall, kicked off the night by welcoming everyone to the event before handing the microphone over to the husband-and-wife team of Stephen and Angelica McIntyre, the announcers for the evening.
“We are excited to be the MCs,” Stephen said. “Talk about a perfect way to give back to the community and provide entertainment.”
“I’m ready to see the people dance,” said Cullen Lawson, who stood next to her mother, Casey Lawson.
The McIntyres welcomed the first act of the night, the TandL Characters to the stage. Mickey Mouse and a cartoon crew danced for the children in an audience of about 40 people.
The second act of the night was a mascot dance-off between nine corporate and school mascots from across Robeson County. Branch said they got the idea for the mascot dance-off after a United Way organization in another county held a similar event.
“We thought, ‘You know why not we’ll try this, it’s going to be a lot of fun,’” Branch said.
The mascots were broken up into three teams and out of each of those teams whomever received the biggest audience applause was able to move into the next round.
In the first round the American Red Cross mascot Blood Hound, The Chick-fil-A Cow, and the Aaron’s mascot Lucky Dog faced off. The Chick-fil-A Cow won round one.
During round two the Carolina Surf and Turf Market mascot, the Surf and Turf Cow, danced against Petey, the Pirate mascot for Lumberton High School, and McGruff the Crime Dog, representing the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office. Petey won round two and advanced into the final round.
For round three the Campbell’s Soup Girl competed against Sparky the Fire Dog, representing The Lumberton Fire Department; The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s mascot, BraveHawk; and Spider-Man, from the TandL Characters. Spider-Man won round three.
For the final round all the previous winners gathered on the dance floor. Petey danced away the winner.
After the dance-off the children were invited up on stage by the McIntyres to dance with the mascots and have pictures taken with them.
“I love them. They are the best people and they really help us,” said Chelsea Pierce as she played the duck match game with her daughter Miyah. “They helped us with hurricane relief and gave a lot to our community.”
“It went well,” Freeman said of the event. “We had a great turnout. A lot of young high school kids showed up, so hopefully they will get involved and volunteer.”
For information, about volunteering with the United Way, contact Branch at 910-739-4249 or go online to www.untedwayrobeson.org.
Reid Beman can be reached at 910-816-1989.