Gillian Larson is at it again. The former Survivor contestant and Temecula resident will bring the popular Reality Rally back to Temecula this weekend, April 11-13 and this year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever.
The event, featuring 120 television reality stars from 39 reality TV shows, allows fans the opportunity to get up close and personal with personalities such as three-time Survivor Player Tina Wesson. Also appearing this year are the original Survivor winner and Celebrity Apprentice contestant Richard Hatch, Inaugural Amazing Race Winner, Brennan Swain and retired NFL offensive linebacker Lance Zeno, of the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers, just to name a few.
Larson said she came up with the idea for Reality Rally while she was playing Survivor Gabon, during the show’s 17th season. It took her eight years to be cast on CBS’s popular reality show.
“I could never explain my burning passion and desire to get on that show,” Larson said. “I think I was guided in that direction. I tried for eight years, I played for six days, lost 12 pounds and I had a five week vacation. I said to myself, what is this all about? Then this idea about Reality Rally just came to me. I took an idea in my head from the jungles of Africa in Gabon and it has grown to be an amazing, amazing event.”
Larson said she suddenly realized she now belonged to this reality world family and that through them she could make a difference.
“I love Temecula, it’s an amazing town and I wanted to be able to do something for a charity in Temecula,” Larson said. “I also love Michelle’s place, I read about their story and what they do for people in this area and beyond and it suddenly came to me that I could use my mini celebrity…I could do something in Temecula raising money for Michelle’s place.”
Larson said being connected to the reality world has been a blessing, leading her to utilize fan bases for each individual star that comes to Reality Rally to raise money for Michelle’s Place Breast Cancer Resource Center from out of town instead of tapping into funds from just the local area.
“It’s such a great town, we support each other’s charities all the time and I want to be able to bring in money from the outside rather than tap our own resources in town and that is exactly what we do,” she said noting last year’s money was brought in from 16 countries and every one of the 50 states by using the reality star component. “Every star has a fan base and we tap that component because each star actually has to raise $400 to be here.”
A production team of about 50 people come together every year planning events such as the Meet and Greet and the Celebrity reception, a Casino Night at Wilson Creek Winery and the actual Amazing Race style game through Old Town Temecula.
“What I love about it the most is we have people who come onboard and they all are so involved in making this happen and each one of them has a piece of it,” she said. “It’s an ‘our’ event.
Larson, who has lived in Temecula for 13 years, said while she never could explain that passion to be on Survivor, she now sees where that desire actually came from.
“Clearly it was to be off Survivor and be able to use Survivor,” she said. “It’s amazing, we are just ordinary, everyday people who are on these reality shows but it’s so weird because I am just a little old lady from Temecula but people get so excited when they see me.”
Reality Rally is the largest event in the country bringing the stars out to meet the public.
“Let me make it clear the entire thing is for the public,” she said. “They are here to meet the public, to sign autographs with them, to take pictures with them and all the while raising money for Michelle’s Place.”
New to this year’s event will be a Celebrity Chef’s Showcase on Sunday. Fourteen chefs from nine different cooking shows including Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen, Restaurant Express and Cutthroat Kitchen will be competing against each other all for the fans’ enjoyment.
The weekend kicks off at Michelle’s Place on Friday at 4:30 p.m. when the reality stars and media take a tour to learn about the breast cancer resource center and why it is they are raising money.
“I want them to meet the Watson family,” she said. “I want them to know why they raise money.”
While each reality star has to raise $400 to participate, many of them go above and beyond that fundraising goal.
“I think there are 30 who have raised over a thousand and one young girl from Canada has raised $13,000, just by tapping her fan base,” Larson said. “It’s amazing.”
The money raised goes to the Breast Health Assistance Program which funds mammograms and ultrasounds for those who can’t afford them as well as to other support programs such as the Wellness Program, Pink Ribbon Assistance and other support services.
“This is an opportunity for all those people who love reality television, said Larson. “People can ask ‘what was it like to be on Naked and Afraid, Survivor or the Amazing Race.’ People can come to talk to them. That’s why they are here, to talk to the public while raising money for Michele’s place. It’s amazing.”
Larson said she will “constantly have gratitude” to the production team who makes it all happen and for the sponsors who provide virtually everything needed to make the event successful every year.
“Cancer affects everybody in some way, both my brother and my parents died of cancer so that is why I am driven to cancer type fundraising,” she said. “Michelle was a young woman that shouldn’t have died. Had she been fully diagnosed when she was 19, then she would not have died when she was 26 and that’s my message that I want to get out. Everybody, we, the people, have a huge power in our hands, it’s called a dollar.
If everybody gave one dollar today, you never know if that dollar could save one or two lives, by paying the cost of that mammogram or ultrasound for someone who might not be able to afford it on their own. How powerful is that? One dollar could do
If you go:
Reality Rally has family fun and events but be aware that players must be 16-years-old to compete in Saturday’s race. Children’s areas and checkpoints will be set up across Old Town Temecula for families to get out and play together. Most events are free to watch, but some such as Friday night’s Celebrity Reception the Red Carpet Celebration on Saturday and Sunday’s Breakfast with the stars require a ticket.
For a complete listing of dates, times and locations of events throughout the weekend or for more information, visit
www.realityrally.com. For more information on Michelle’s Place Breast Cancer Resource Center, visit