Photography by Carper Creative Photography
Each year, community leaders wear their dancing shoes for the coveted winning title that is earned at the Dancing with Our Stars Gala. All this fun and friendly competition benefits the Children’s Tumor Foundation and supports the Arkansas chapter’s research and mission: to end and find a cure for neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in the nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue.
Children’s Tumor Foundation also provides support for children and families affected by NF. A portion of gala proceeds is donated for grants to send Arkansas teens to the International NF Camp. We’re putting each star in the spotlight and introducing them on our blog. They will compete at the Sept. 9 gala, in addition to soliciting contributions + votes prior to the event.
Early in life, Helaine Raye Palmer Williams realized what her career path would be. She began writing as early as third grade.
In 1981, Helaine was hired by Arkansas Democrat as a city desk news assistant, writing obituaries and performing various other clerical duties. Later she became a consumer affairs reporter and author of her first newspaper column, “Action and Answers.”
In 1989, Helaine took over authorship of a weekly column, Let’s Talk. She was promoted to the position of reporter for the then-LifeStyle section.
In the years since, Helaine has written for a number of current and former special sections of what is now the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Her stories have appeared in the High Profile section as well as the various Style sections. In January 2021 she became the newspaper’s Sunday Style editor.
Helaine is the recipient of numerous awards from such organizations as the Arkansas Press Association; the Society of Professional Journalists, Arkansas Chapter; the National Association of Black Journalists; and the National Federation of Press Women. She is also a 2021 Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame inductee.
As a High Profile reporter, Helaine regularly covered the Dancing With Our Stars Gala and found herself wanting to do more for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. She became a member of the advisory board for the Arkansas Chapter. She looks forward to cutting a rug for young people with NF. “I want to see these children ultimately healed and healthy And hey, I love to dance. It was a no-brainer,” Helaine says.
In her own words…
Why did you chose to participate as a Star in the Children’s Tumor Foundation’s Dancing with Our Stars event?
I covered DWOS for some years as a reporter and photographer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette High Profile section. I found myself not only becoming a fan of this popular, energy-filled event itself but also, through my coverage, I began to feel I was playing a personal role in helping to support young people living with neurofibromatosis (a condition of which I had not even heard until I began covering CTF fundraisers).
I had not shared this with Lesley Oslica, Volunteer Leader for CTF Arkansas, but being a dance enthusiast, I’d sometimes envision myself competing. Obviously Lesley was envisioning the same thing … she invited me to be a judge for the 2021 event, then invited me to be one of the stars! Having fun for a phenomenal cause was a no-brainer for me.
What is something that has surprised you in preparation for the big event?
Although I envisioned myself participating in DWOS, I feared I would have trouble catching on to dancing with a partner; my actual dancing efforts before now had always been singles dancing (I partner-danced only in daydreams). Stephen — through his expert, down-to-earth instruction — has all but eliminated that fear.
What type of dance have you always wanted to learn?
I’d always wanted to tango. Now I’ll get to do just a bit of it!
What is your dance claim to fame?
Still being able to do the Running Man at my 30th high-school class reunion. (Although, that was 11 years ago.)
What is your biggest performance fear?
Forgetting what dance sequence comes next! But I figure that if I focus not on myself but what/who I’m dancing for, I’ll be OK.