Reality Rally takes over Temecula

Reality Rally creator and founder Gillian Larson gives some final details to the racers before they headed out to accomplish the tasks they need to complete to finish the race Saturday, May 4, in Old Town Temecula. Jeff Pack photo

Groups of reality show stars swinging samurai swords in Old Town Temecula may not sound like a fundraiser to most people, but for the reality show stars that attended the eighth incarnation of Reality Rally, it was a task that needed to be done if they wanted to win.

The task was part of the “Amazing Race” portion of the “Fun for Funds” three-day fundraising event held at various locations in Temecula Thursday, May 2, through Saturday, May 4.

During the main event “Amazing Race” on Saturday morning, teams made up of four participants, raced through 12 challenge checkpoints throughout Old Town Temecula in the three-hour race.

As the teams, led by their reality stars ringers, learned a sword routine, other teams were taking on challenges at other spots in Old Town Temecula and still others were running down streets and sidewalks to find the location of the next challenge.

Teams were formed by members of the public, organizations, businesses and cities – and the last category, cities – was one of the more hotly contested competitions of the day.

After much trash-talking leading up to the race, in the end, it was the city of Lake Elsinore that repeated as champions of the Valley Integrity Challenge.

The “3 Amigos” team was the overall winner, completing all the challenges by 10:54 a.m., roughly 15 minutes ahead of the Lake Elsinore team.

The “3 Amigos” – John Vataha, Steve Pickett, Rick Fortin and Kendra Guffey from “Pirate Master” – raised $20,460 and earned three “Skip Its” to skip three challenges.

“Their ‘3 Amigos’ for Jenn Lyon Team was in honor of Jenn Lyon a contestant on ‘Survivor: Palua’ who died of breast cancer at 36 years old,” Gillian Larson, creator and founder of Reality Rally, said. “Her parents Larry and Jane come to Reality Rally every year in honor of Jenn and what we do.”

Michelle’s Place took home the Charity Chalice, Valley News was the Corporate Challenge winner, The Amazing Chemonators won the Heart of Health division and Wounded Warriors Project No. 7 was the Battle of the Badge winners.

Though winning the race was on the minds of most of the teams – at the heart of all of the events that made up Reality Rally was raising money to benefit Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center, a local nonprofit established by the family of 26-year-old Michelle Watson after she died due to breast cancer.

“I continue to be in awe at how Reality Rally happens every year,” Larson said. “The entire three-day event is an incredible undertaking and is totally awesome because we all do it for the right reason, Michelle’s Place, to support many fighting for their lives with cancer.

“Reality Rally makes an impact on many lives in so many ways that I could not have dreamed of when I created this event while walking in the jungle of Gabon after being eliminated from the TV show ‘Survivor,’” Larson said.

Reality Rally kicked off Thursday, May 2, with the Red Carpet Celebrity Reception at Wilson Creek Winery, where members of the public could mingle with the reality stars while everyone participated in the Live Band Karaoke portion of the night, featuring Lifetime Rocker.

Perhaps the wildest event of the weekend was the Celebrity versus Public Lip Sync Showdown Friday, May 3, inside the Summit Room at Pechanga Resort Casino.

Reality stars and race-participating members of the public were invited to pick their favorite songs and perform them live in front of the audience.

A lot of glitter, wigs and elaborate costuming were all but required to have a chance to win the judged contest, and in the end it was Terri Kincaid, a cancer survivor who received services from Michelle’s Place, who took home the title.

Kincaid performed with Brenda Maingot, Terri Marek, Lori Simmang, Amy Lee Carnevale, Beth Fournier and Jorgie Berenschot and performed “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” and received a standing ovation, best costume, best overall performance and people’s choice award.

“Their performance, the significance, all that is behind them and the impact of Reality Rally got me crying in the wings and still does,” Larson said.

After the racing in the morning, it was time to decompress and let the reality star chefs that attended the weekend’s events show off their skills at the Celebrity Chefs Showcase at Temeku Hills on Saturday night.

The fifth annual showcase included chefs from “MasterChef,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Chopped,” “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “Beat Bobby Flay,” “Chef Wanted,” “Food Network Star,” “Supermarket Superstar” and more.

The television-style competition saw chefs pair up to compete in judged contests

Chefs Ashley Sherman and Pat Tortorello of “Hell’s Kitchen” won the dessert portion of the event.

When it was all said and done, Larson was proud of what they had accomplished.

“I am honored to have 24 production team directors who run 24 divisions with their 93 production team members,” Larson said. “Privileged to have over 100 sponsors who provide their time, talent, product, venue, transport, food, media coverage, 12 Challenge Checkpoint organizations running their challenges and so much more.

“I continue to be amazed to have Marines from Camp Pendleton, U.S. Border Patrol cadets, TVHS Air Force ROTC, Great Oak jazz band and drumline, Boy Scouts, cheerleaders from Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac Catholic School, TVHS football team members, several other Temecula high school students and over 300 volunteers working over the weekend,” Larson said.

She was also proud of the celebrity attendees who work hard to make the event a success.

“Thrilled to see 41 reality TV stars from 28 TV shows at Reality Rally who are required to raise funds to attend and they do it willingly,” Larson said.

For more information on Reality Rally, visit

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at