Valley News Intern
Bringing fun through fundraising, more than 100 reality stars will visit Temecula once again for the annual Reality Rally. The stars participate with the public in a variety of events taking place April 7-9, all supporting Michelle’s Place Breast Cancer Resource Center.
Gillian Larson, who became a reality star after she appeared on “Survivor, Gabon,” created the event as a way to raise awareness of breast cancer and support Michelle’s Place and those who use its services. In the past, the Reality Rally raised thousands of dollars for the charity and Larson’s hope for the event this year is to become bigger, gain more sponsors and in her words, “have a whole lot of fun.”
Reality Rally opens with its staple events, such as the Red Carpet Reception and the “Amazing Race,” alongside the premiere of a new activity this year called Lip Sync Showdown. Groups of individuals have the opportunity to compete in a singing competition against celebrities. The winner receives the Golden Mike and all of the bragging rights the award entails. The Lip Sync Showdown will take place at the Pala Mesa Golf Resort April 7 starting at 7 p.m. Free to the public, the event mainly serves as a precursor to all of the excitement to unfold the following weekend.
“The Lip Sync Showdown came from a seed that one of the reality stars planted, asking if we could fit in the weekend,” Larson said. One of the celebrity chefs from last year emailed the idea to Larson, wanting another way to expand the rally.
Every second of the showdown will be captured on a livestream to be broadcast multiple times on Channel 3 Temecula and online. This precedent will continue throughout the entire weekend, providing a way not only for the event to reach more people, but as a way for sponsors to gain visibility. Larson wants sponsors to benefit in every aspect of Reality Rally, to maintain their support and gain even more. Sponsors may buy slots on the livestream, flyers, and even sections of the autograph book the public uses to collect reality stars’ signatures.
“All of the sponsors are in the autograph book and they last forever,” Larson said. “People don’t throw this book away,”
She hopes to bring as many people as possible – sponsors, reality stars, volunteers and spectators, to participate in the Reality Rally, as it only functions with and for Temecula.
Born in South Africa, Larson moved to Temecula with her husband which the couple now calls home.
“I came across Temecula and I think it was guided. I do believe it has been perfect for Reality Rally. This event works in this town,” Larson said.
Larson’s idea for the event came from the love she had for both reality shows and her new home in Temecula.
“It took me eight years to get on survivor,” Larson said. “I played for six days. I had a five-week vacation and I spent the five weeks thinking, “what can I do with this experience?” And I realized I now belong to the reality world. I love Temecula, so it just came together.”
Larson believes the benefit is mutual, as Temecula has grown with the Reality Rally. “It has spread the word ‘Temecula’ in many more places than otherwise. People come back. They didn’t know we had such a cool town and they come back and visit.”
The community oriented mindset led the choice to donate all proceeds to the Temecula based organization, Michelle’s Place, which provides support to those affected by cancer. Larson felt connected to Michelle’s Place since her parents and her brother were lost to cancer.
Larson said, “Years ago, I looked it up and Michelle’s story just struck me. Here was a young girl of 19, found a breast lump was told by her doctor ‘don’t worry about it.’” She was joining the Peace Corps when she was 23. During the physical, they said to Michelle, “You have a breast lump.” They explored it further but it was too far gone by the time they caught it. She died two years later.
To Larson, keeping the event in Temecula became an important endeavor.
“I wanted my money local,” Larson said. “I didn’t want my money going to a national organization. I want to know that people who live in this area have a place where they can walk through the door and ask for help. Our fundraising helps make that possible.”
The event began as a way to build the community and Larson hopes that many more will find a way to find time to become involved in the Reality Rally. For more information on registration, please visit http://www.realityrally.com .