Wanda August has come a long way since she was diagnosed with cancer, she said. August is one of nine Ascension Parish’s well-known residents volunteering to raise money for Community Opportunities of East Ascension, The Arc, with a ballroom dancing competition.

“I’m discovering muscles I never knew I had,” August said, “but I feel great.”

That good feeling comes both from the fun, if unnerving, idea that she will be performing in front of about 1,500 people on July 9 at the third annual Dancing for a Cause. But she also knows she’s raising money for a good local cause — COEA’s Respite Center, a facility that can accommodate residents with special needs for overnight stays.

For those who missed the first two Dancing for a Cause events, the fundraiser is a competition styled after television’s “Dancing with the Stars,” where “celebrities” — in this case, local Ascension celebrities — are paired with dancing instructors for a friendly ballroom-style dancing competition.

In addition to August, who is paired with instructor Leonard Augustus Jr., dancers are Marie Broussard, with instructor Victor Loveira; Brook Leblanc Knight, paired with dancing instructor Le’ Brian Patrick; Jodi Loar and Guillermo Gonzalez. Male dancers are Kevin “Chef KD” Diez, paired with instructor Beverly Cook; Mark Dearman and Courtney Black; Gus Gutierrez and Mary Bayle; Russell Graham and Jewell Reid; and Scott Banker and Dina Melley.

While her dancers practice, event Chairwoman Sharon Morris and her volunteers spend just about every spare moment outside of work handling the mountain of details that goes into making the event one of the most anticipated in Ascension Parish.

“We’ve learned a lot from what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past two years,” Morris said. “We just try to improve upon that each year.”

This will be the best so far, she said. Special guest Irma Thomas will be performing at the event, and WBRZ’s Whitney Vann will perform a dance number with Augustus. Judges this year are Ascension Parish Judge Marilyn Lambert; Czarina Walker; Linda Schexnayder, a technical judge from Center Stage Performing Arts Academy; Darlene Denstorff, with The Advocate’s River Parishes bureau; and WAFB’s Cheryl Mercedes.

Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux is the honorary chair of the event, and Jenny Heroman and Roy Quezaire will serve as masters of ceremony.

The event is scheduled for July 9 at 7 p.m. at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center’s Trade Mart. Doors open at 6 p.m. Refreshments are included, and a cash bar will be available.

Tickets are $25, and can be purchased at LeBlanc’s Food Stores in Gonzales and Prairieville, the Ascension Chamber of Commerce office, The Gonzales Weekly Citizen office, and the COEA office. For more information, look up Dancing for a Cause on Facebook.

For ticket information, or to become a sponsor, contact COEA at (225) 621-2000.