PLANT CITY Dr. Ray Gutierrez and Luly Bonilla burned up the dance floor with a sizzling salsa and won the judges’ award at Dancing with the Locals.
“I am so excited. I can’t believe we won,” said Bonilla, a physical therapist who said she has been dancing since she was a child.
Gutierrez, a dentist, noting that the competition raised money for life-saving equipment for the Plant City Police Department, added, “I’m proud to have participated in an event that helped charity.”
The hardest part for the judges was picking a winner at the Nov. 15 fundraiser.
“All the couples did such a fantastic job,” judge Traci Walding said.
The sixth annual contest, featuring 11 couples trained by professional dance teachers, was sponsored by the Plant City Rotary Club. The goal was to raise $100,000 - enough to equip each of the city’s 68 patrol cars with portable devices that can restore the heart’s rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest.
Gutierrez and Bonilla weren’t the only ones to go home with an award.
Olan Deguzman and Amy Glover won the top trophy for the couple who raised the most money from audience donations and sponsorships. Husband and wife Dr. Derek and Katie Busciglio placed second, and father and daughter Steve Bonds and Natasha Davis came in third.
Other competitors included father and daughter LaRoyce Keene and Maddy Keene; Beau Walden and Amber Jurgensen; Matt Maloney and Amber Kosinsky; father and daughter Rick Lott and Ericka Lott; husband and wife Barry and Krisha Maurer; husband and wife Dr. Daniel and Arienne Middlebrooks; and Cliff Brown and Shana Mitchell.
Bonds and Davis and the Middlebrooks were finalists for judges’ choice for top dancing couple. Like Gutierrez and Bonilla, they scored perfect 10s from the judges, who included Walding, Paul Davis, James Surrency and Michelle Wegner.
After the competition, Bonds said the experience was worth the weeks of practice.
But he gave all the credit to his daughter.
“She makes her daddy look good,” he said.
His wife, Connie, offered her opinion.
“I’m very proud of them both.”
Gary and Tina Pike served as the evening’s emcees.
A final tally from the fundraiser wasn’t available but attendance at the $100 per ticket event topped 450, or about 100 people more than last year. Silent auctions of such items as sports memorabilia also helped raise money for the cause.
The Rotary Club has already delivered seven automated external defibrillators to the police department, with more to come, Police Chief Steve Singletary said. Training is already being offered so officers will be ready to use them once each patrol car has one of the devices, Singletary said.
Singletary said police officers often reach medical emergencies before paramedics arrive. He predicts the defibrillators will save lives.
“In a cardiac event, every minute counts,” he said.