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It's about more than being pretty

Despite what you may have heard in recent days, WTSP-Ch. 10 co-anchor Mario Diaz says he is not one of the 10 most eligible bachelors in Tampa Bay.

"They just haven't been looking hard enough," Diaz quipped.

Nevertheless, Diaz is one of 20 bachelors and bachelorettes participating in Tampa's Top Twenty, a Dress For Success fundraiser at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Tampa Theatre.

While putting yourself out there on stage could be nerve-racking for some, Diaz said he is taking the opportunity in stride. But Ginger Gadsden, his new morning co-anchor, jokes that he has been spending a lot more time in front of the mirror.

"Only because the previous ones broke," Diaz shot back. "Everyone is making such a big deal about it, but I do a lot of stuff for charity. It's for a great cause. I'm familiar with what Dress For Success does to help women, and I want to help out as much as possible."

Dawn Dugle, a producer for WTVT-Ch. 13, is another participant who isn't shy about trying something new. Dugle spent a year living on Kwajalein, a tropical island in the South Pacific. She has performed in the theater, tried out for Jeopardy! and once took a turn on stage as a standup comic.

"I'm funnier in living rooms at cocktail parties," Dugle said.

As far as putting herself on the chopping - I mean auction - block, Dugle has the same carefree attitude that has driven her to go on other adventures.

"Everyone says, "I can't believe you're doing that.' To me, it's a "Why not?' " she said. "Why wouldn't I do it?"

For a different perspective, let's talk to admittedly nervous Lee Kercher.

"I'm scared I'm going to do like Carrie on Sex and the City and go flying down the roadway," said Kercher, a marketing consultant for WSUN-FM 97.1. "What do they call it, runway road kill? But I was so honored to be asked."

Nervous or not, all bachelors and bachelorettes will have the comfort of knowing their good looks are backed by some pretty lavish date packages. Both Diaz and Dugle will take their dates to see the Lightning play the New York Rangers. Diaz and his date will watch from the owners' box after dinner, while Dugle will entertain her winning bidder in the posh XO Club.

Kercher is taking her date to see the Yankees play the Detroit Tigers at Legends Field. The package also includes a pregame behind-the-scenes tour of Legends and dinner at the Melting Pot.

Overall, the bachelors and bachelorettes range in age from 25 to 40 and come from a variety of professions. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. Proceeds will go to Dress for Success, which helps its low-income clients enter the work force by providing them with business suits, training and support.

The nonprofit will have its annual suit drive March 17-24 at International Plaza.

To see photos of the participants and get more information, you can go to www.tampastoptwenty.com.

Gadsden, who seemed to enjoy needling Diaz, said she expects her partner to fetch a hefty amount.

"I expect him to be a top dollar getter," Gadsden said. "No pressure, just bring home the money. A charity depends on you."

Said Diaz: "If someone can scrape up all the spare change inside Tampa Theatre, they might be able to muster up enough money."

Don't be surprised if Diaz empties his piggy bank on the floor of the theater before taking the stage.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or hooper@spttmes.com.

BACHELORETTES

Charity Beck: freelance photographer

Natalie Carr: pediatric dentist

Jennifer Cerrito: Tampa Wedding Originals magazine publisher

Dawn Dugle: WTVT television producer

Reeves Judy: Swann Advertising sales manager

Lee Kercher: WSUN-FM 97 marketing consultant

Susanna Martinez: USF Health media relations director

Allison McInnis-Gimbert: owner Ali's Process Service & Legal Support

Alison Reteneller: executive recruiter

Lisette Vega: writer

BACHELORS

Steve Berry: real estate investor

Mario Diaz: WTSP-Ch. 10 news anchor

John Hannon: sales agent, Weichert Realtors

John Hudson: investment project manager

Brian Lit: lawyer

Michael Monahan: corporate communications director

John Oliver: personal trainer

Robert Spillman: engineer

Troy Taylor: medical exercise specialist

Brandon Young: firefighter/paramedic

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