Reality Rally, the fun for funds game in “Amazing Race” style, has changed their strategy for 2015.
“We are looking forward to a future with no breast cancer.” said founder Gillian Larson. “The Watson family is at the heart of all that we do for Reality Rally.”
Bill and Marilyn Watson founded Michelle’s Place Breast Cancer Resource Center in honor of their daughter, Michelle who lost her battle with the disease in July, 2000. Each year, at Reality Rally time, they thank Larson for the fundraising work she has done on behalf of Michelle’s Place and the vision that led her to this point.
“Gillian is amazing,” Bill said. “We just go where she tells us, and share our story.”
Marilyn agreed. Recovering from recent knee surgery, she and Gillian worked out logistics on red carpet staging that didn’t involve stair climbing this year.
“I don’t know how Gillian does it all,” Marilyn said. “Reality Rally has come to mean a great deal to Michelle’s Place, and she is the reason.”
Larson, a contestant on the seventeenth season of “Survivor” in Gabon, was second voted off. Over the 30 days that followed, Larson walked the beaches and jungles.
“I had learned of Michelle’s Place before my time on ‘Survivor,’ but it was after my being ‘voted off the island,’ that I had a vision on why I was there,” Larson said. “I wanted to use my newfound celebrity to help Michelle’s Place however I could.”
Though she had never met Michelle – or the Watson family – prior to her “Survivor” experience, Larson knew the story of the brave, adventurous young woman, who lost her battle with cancer.
“After being voted off, and injuring my arm body surfing, I couldn’t do anything really. I walked on the beach or in the jungle every day, and had a vision of Reality Rally. I wanted to honor a young woman who didn’t get the opportunity to live out her life, but still just wanted to reach out and help others,” Larson said.
Though Michelle’s Place has grown into a resource center that serves Southwest Riverside Countyresidents in need of information, it was started by a grieving family.
“We started out to honor our daughter’s wishes,” Marilyn said. “She wanted to reach out to others, and help people be their own health advocates.”
Michelle’s Place was the result of that wish. The resource center has grown to aid families affected by breast cancer, helping them receive the tools they need to battle the disease both physically and emotionally.
Reality Rally is one of the major non-corporate donors of Michelle’s Place, according to Larson.
“Last year, we received donations from 16 countries, and all 50 states,” Larson said.
Each Reality Rally contestant earns their way into the game with a $500 donation made to Michelle’s Place.
“Our reality stars must complete their fundraising or they can’t participate. We hold our players to a high standard that Michelle’s Place can be proud of,” she said.
There are those who are earning more, such as Liza Stinton, of “Big Brother Canada, Season 1” and Brad Bohannan of “Bar Rescue,” both vying to be top earners on the Reality Rally tour, according to Larson.
“That fun, competitive spirit is what I enjoy most about these reality stars,” Larson said.
Michelle’s Place is the first stop for Reality Rally’s contestants on their way into Temecula and Wilson Creek Winery for the red carpet meet and greet affair. There, contestants will have an opportunity to hear how the funds they have raised work to aid those in immediate crisis, or help those with metastatic breast cancer. Often, the stars feel the Michelle’s Place stop on their tour of Temecula is the most meaningful, according to Larson.
“Everyone has a story on how cancer has affected their lives. The reality stars are no different.” Larson said.
Michelle’s Place’s doors are open to lend encouragement, resources, support and emotional comfort to someone who is surviving with breast cancer. “That is what Michelle wanted,” according to Marilyn.
For more information on Michelle’s Place, visit www.MichellesPlace.org and for more information on Reality Rally, visit www.RealityRally.com
NOTE: In 2015, the April 10-11 event will showcase 98 reality stars. “This year we hope that Temecula will come out to play with our reality stars, that more kids than ever will go through our autograph line,” Larson said.
Friday night at Wilson Creek Winery, fans can meet and greet with the stars as well as enter the charity casino night party and poker tournament. Saturday’s activities will be solely located in Old Town Temecula in one of the largest changes to the event. The games begin at 9:30 a.m. with family focused activities through the afternoon, and culminating with the Celebrity Chef Showcase at the end of the night.