Survivor motivates ladies to dream at Healthy Woman dinner

Temecula resident Gillian Larson was the featured speaker as Fallbrook Hospital’s Healthy Woman program celebrated its sixth anniversary with a dinner event at Pala Mesa Resort on May 21. Program director Monique Murphy-Mijares first gave an overview of the successful year just finished with 38 local sponsors and an average attendance of 173 ladies at each monthly Ladies Night Out event.

The anniversary event always includes an inspirational speaker and Larson, a retired nurse and former “Survivor” reality show contestant, gave a rousing talk illustrating her motto, “Dream it. Believe it. Prepare for it and do it!” Her story of the lengths she went to get on the show, how she lived her motto and continued her dream showed how passionate she is about her message.

“I do not believe in coincidences. I believe they are messages sent to you; if you hear it, you need to act on it,” Larson said. She just happened to see an episode of “Survivor” during its first season, and one of the challenges the contestants competed in caught her attention; “I was totally bitten by the bug of ‘Survivor.’” That is when she told herself, “I’m going to play that game.”

She told the audience, “You need to tell people what you want to do, so you don’t have an out; pick stuff that is doable; dream it; make that resolve, what it is you want to do…nothing happens without believing in it.”

It took her eight years and 15 applications to make it on “Survivor: Gabon.”

“Don’t let anyone snuff out your flame,” she said.

Despite the rejections, she kept on preparing by eating well, exercising and reading 65 survival books, all while working full time as a nurse. She did not give up; wearing an orange shirt with the message “Survivor scout talk to me” everywhere she went for seven years.

She learned the best way to eat worms (just swallow, don’t chew), how to tell time with four fingers to sunset (each finger width equals 15 minutes) and worked up to swimming for an hour at a time.

She kept fit, learning, and building a story. For her 15th application, she taped her video submission on a trip to South Africa (where she grew up) where she fed an elephant, danced with Zulus, rappelled down a 4,000 foot cliff and swam with great white sharks. The story of swimming with the sharks (she was inside a cage) was what led to her getting a phone call that said, “Pack your bags, you’re going.” Her response was, “My bags have been packed for eight years.”

In Gabon, the bugs were terrible, she said, but she knew that burning dry elephant dung would keep the bugs away. Despite all her survivor knowledge, she was booted on day 6, disappointed and 12 pounds lighter. However, because of her stint on the show, she has been carrying on her dream with the Reality Rally event she organizes in Temecula each April as a fundraiser for Michelle’s Place, a breast cancer resource center.

Larson also uses her experience to motivate people of all ages to follow their dreams and make them come true. She was a dynamic speaker who posed for photos with the ladies, signed autographs and answered questions about “Survivor.”

Call (760) 731-8432 or visit for more information on the Healthy Woman Lady’s Night Out program and to register for future event.

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