By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - Jade Smith is getting ready to step into a sequined, fringed, midriff-baring dress and perform a hip-swaying Latin dance in front of a packed house at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart.
She has stage fright and no professional dance experience.
But on Sept. 22, the 27-year-old entrepreneur will be the youngest of six contestants in a dancing competition created to benefit the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition.
"Being on stage or speaking in front of crowds is a phobia I have. Dancing in front of them and having to speak is not a good mix," said Ms. Smith. "But I know it's for a good cause so it will be fine."
The show is "Dancing with the Martin Stars," and is loosely modeled after ABC network's popular television series.
It pits well-known local residents in dancing and fundraising contests, where the winner will be the one with the best scores and most donations.
Taking the stage will be Ed Lippisch of Lippisch and Engebretsen Oral Surgery and Dental Implants, Tom Hall of Seacoast National Bank, Lindsay Nickerson of Nickerson & Company, Marilynn Leeds of Everglades Area Health Education Center and Eve Samples, a Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers columnist.
Last year's inaugural event raised $50,000, with all proceeds going to Martin County Healthy Start Coalition, a nonprofit that works with pregnant women and new mothers.
The money purchased breast pumps for the WIC program, contributed to the group's outreach efforts, supported Lamaze childbirth classes, counseling services and several other activities, said Aubrey Jones, Healthy Start Coalition's community liaison.
Strong community support led the nonprofit to surpass its initial fundraising goal of $10,000 for the first show, and a sold-out house at the Lyric. Organizers hope this year's contest also generates $50,000.
"We're happy with whatever comes in. Anything we get is extra money for services, so we're excited with anything," Ms. Jones said.
"Our biggest hope is just to sell out again. All of our star dances have worked so hard to prepare."
For contestants, such as Ms. Smith, gearing up for the contest has meant weeks of training with a professional dancer, who will partner with them for the show.
"It's been overwhelmingly fun," said Ms. Smith, owner of Island Party Rentals. "It's all worth it. I'll learn a dance and we'll raise a lot of money."
To support the event, visit www.mchealthystart.org/martinstars. Show attendees can also select a candidate when purchasing tickets from the Lyric Theatre, located at 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart. Tickets cost between $35 and $100.