The hours, weeks and months leading up to March 3 are proving to be a period of ongoing discovery for David Secrest. There are new-found muscles in the middle of his back, ones he never used nor even knew existed. The realization that, with the car removed and the door closed, his garage works just fine as a makeshift dance studio. And there’s another new place, the one his mind wanders to around 4 a.m. when he thinks about taking the stage at the Knight Theater in front of 2,000 people.

Secrest, a managing director at Barings, is one of six community-star contestants paired with a professional dancer for the Dancing With the Stars of Charlotte Gala, raising money for the Charlotte Ballet and his selected charity, the Levine Children’s Hospital. You can learn more about Secrest, his professional dance partner Elizabeth Truell, and see their competition here.

“It’s terrifying,” he said. “I can snap my fingers and I have rhythm but no dancing experience. I’ve been on a stage with a lot of lights before … theoretically I won’t be able to see the audience, I just hope I don’t hear them laughing at me – or at least I hope I hear them laughing with me.”

Secrest won’t reveal the nature of the choreography they practice several hours each week, saying only they’re going to cover a lot. In addition to the People’s Choice Award and their own nerves, the duo will also face a panel of judges when they take the stage for a three-minute routine he’ll have practiced hundreds of times and thought of even more.

“It’s rather daunting, there’s just a ton of steps and they don’t come naturally,” Secrest said. “I’ve developed a new appreciation for dancing professionals because they make it look so easy.”

The March 3 black tie gala is sold out, though Barings will have some tickets available in coming weeks as part of a raffle to support David, the Levine Children’s Hospital, and the event. Part of Secrest’s drive is knowing he’s supporting an organization that’s helping people when they need it the most, including a friend whose child will undergo treatment at the Charlotte hospital widely recognized as one of the premier facilities in the United States.

“There is comfort in knowing that this child’s well-being will be in the hands of an organization our firm has supported for so long, including sponsoring the Hopebuilders 5K when no one else would,” Secrest said. “We talk about the team environment we have at Barings, and you’d be surprised how many people are willing to help you when you step outside your comfort zone. It really speaks to what we have as a culture.”