Behind the Mask set for Saturday

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024

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On Saturday, Twin Cedars will host the 11th annual Behind the Mask Mardi Gras Ball.

The annual event serves as a fundraiser for Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, a non-profit that offers programs for abused and neglected children, child advocacy, residential programs, foster care and much more.

Each year Twin Cedars names a “Royal Court” comprised of community volunteers who raise money for the non-profit by vying to be crowned the annual King and Queen of the Mask. The royal court seeks “votes” in the form of donations to Twin Cedars. Every dollar donated to the candidate equals one vote for them. The candidates with the most votes are crowned king and queen during the Behind the Mask Ball.

Kim Rozycki, director of development and marketing for Twin Cedars, said this year voting will allowed until 8 p.m. on Saturday. Traditionally, the voting has closed the Friday before the ball, but this year voting will continue up and through a portion of the ball.

“The event will have been going on for two hours before the voting is closed, and people will still be able to vote online all day Saturday and up until 8 p.m.,” Rozycki said. “People who are at the event will be able to vote in person or online while at the party. That’s going to give the candidates one last push for votes.”

Rozycki said the change was suggested by last year’s royal court, who raised $133,000 for Twin Cedars, smashing their goal of $100,000. She said this year they have set a goal of $150,000.

The money from the event goes to support all of the Twin Cedars programs in LaGrange, Rozycki said. The programs include the Bradfield Center, Therapeutic Foster Care, Team Building, Circle of Care, Darkness 2 Light, Troup County Children’s Advocacy Center and Safe Families for Children West Georgia.

This year’s candidates will have their work cut out for them if they want to top last year.

“We’ve got 15 fantastic candidates. For the first time, almost every one of them has some sort of reason, a real personal connection, why they want to support Twin Cedars,” Rozycki said. “All of these candidates have a real passion for the cause. We normally have a few that do, but this year, everybody really has a personal connection.”

She said this year’s royal court has teachers, medical professionals, law enforcement and foster parents, all of whom interact with Twin Cedars regularly.

The 2024 King Candidates include:


Gatens is a nurse practitioner at UrgenCare and LivWell Health. He is married to Kamren Gatens, Occupational Health Director/LaGrange UrgenCare Clinic Director. He also serves on the Board of Harmony House and coaches multiple youth sports.


Karr is a healthcare professional with a passion for serving the community, both as a dedicated ER Nurse and as the ER Manager at Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center. He and his wife, Jessica, have been married for 15 years. Karr is also a member of First Baptist Church on the Square.


Morman is a semi-retired educator, currently teaching part-time at Callaway High School. He serves as a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Rosemont Baptist Church, along with being a radio host and emcee for a variety of local events including the Harmony House Dragon Boat Races. He also serves as director and volunteer for Lafayette Theater Company and the LSPA.


Nixon was born and raised in LaGrange and graduated from Troup High in 2002. He is an agency director for Globe Life Liberty National Division and a retired law enforcement officer of 20 years. Nixon is married to Traci Nixon, who works for Hometown Family Medicine.


Turner is the Lead Pastor of Teaver Road Baptist Church, where he has served for seven years. Turner also works with the LaGrange Police Department in a part-time capacity as a patrol officer and chaplain, where he helped establish the department’s mental health initiative.


Walter Solomon Whitfield is a LaGrange native and graduate of LaGrange High School. Solomon started his teaching career at LaGrange High School in 2015, where he dedicated himself to shaping young minds in the field of mathematics. Over the past two years, he transitioned into a teacher support role as the intervention specialist.


Wyatt is a business leader having served in manufacturing with Exxon-Mobil and Mando America, financial services with Synovus and in non-profit capacities with Habitat for Humanity and Body of Christ Worship Center. Wyatt currently serves as CEO of Thinc College and Career Academy.

The 2024 Queen Candidates include:


Hamilton is the director of promotions and marketing for the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority. She also serves on the historic preservation committee with the City of LaGrange and on the Georgia Bike MS Committee, which hosts an annual event that benefits the Multiple Sclerosis Society.


Hart works as a clinical coordinator at Miller & Webb Orthodontist. She co-owns Cynthia & Krystal’s Boutique with her mother. She is also actively involved in Leadership Troup and Jehovah Baptist Church.


Hebert is affectionately known locally as the Purple-Haired Realtor. She and her husband own Signature Property Group in downtown LaGrange.  She is also the vice [resident of the Troup County Humane Society, and she is active with the Troup County Board of Realtors.


Jones supervises two local offices with Wellstar Medical Group and is a member of the Junior Service League of LaGrange. Jones was born and raised here in LaGrange and is married to Jonathan Jones.


Magby currently serves as a Community Schools Grant Manager for Communities in Schools of Georgia. She also serves on the board of directors for United Way of West Georgia, THINC Academy Business & Marketing Advisory Committee, West Georgia Technical College Business Management Advisory Board and is a member of the Rotary Club of LaGrange and the Troup-Coweta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.


Pracht worked as a Pediatric ICU nurse at Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta. After moving to LaGrange, she spent several years as a homemaker and homeschool mom. She later began working with Southern Life Insurance Group and helping seniors in the community with their Medicare benefits, life insurance and retirement income planning. She is also a member of Rosemont Baptist, where she teaches Sunday School and Wednesday night Bible lessons.


Born in West Africa, Liberia, Rancifer gained a passion for providing children with a safe and loving environment. After moving to the United States at the age of ten, Rancifer earned a master’s degree in children and families social work while being commissioned as a second lieutenant field medical officer in the United States Army, where she served for three years.

She currently owns a behavioral aide business and founded a nonprofit organization that serves youths in foster care.


Updegrove moved to LaGrange four years ago with her husband and two daughters. She is a civil engineer and worked in a construction management job in New York City but is now taking time off from her career to invest in her family while the children are young. Updegrove is a member of the Junior Service League, the local tennis community and First Presbyterian Church, and is an active participant at her kids’ schools and all their extracurricular activities.


The 2024 Behind the Mask Mardi Gras Ball will be held on Saturday, Feb 3. From 6 to 10 p.m. at the Del’avant Event Center on Main Street in downtown LaGrange.