When Oprah gave away tens of thousands of dollars worth of her “favorite things” to a studio audience, two pairs of Minnesotans were among the people jumping and screaming and crying. They were there not by luck, but because someone nominated them for being a hometown hero.
“It was an absolute, jaw-dropping experience,” said Susan Lacek, founder of Faith’s Lodge, a retreat in Wisconsin for families who are grieving the loss of a child, or coping with a serious illness.
“What we do at Faith’s Lodge is help people through pain and sadness. So for us to be [at Oprah] and see so many people experience such joy and happiness was so wonderful,” said Lacek.
Her friend Libby Costello Amaris nominated her at Oprah.com for a show that was supposed to be about being a hero.
When they arrived at Tuesday’s taping, they were surprised by being a part of Oprah’s legendary “Favorite Things” episode. Oprah highlights incredible products and services and gives them away to the audience.
“She is a hero to bereaved parents and helps all parents appreciate the time we have with our kids,” said Costello Amaris. “She took a personal tragedy that she and her husband suffered, and really has turned it into this positive place.”
Among the gifts Oprah gave them: a $2,500 diamond watch, an all-expenses paid Caribbean cruise, a 3D HDTV and a 3D Blu-Ray DVD player.
“Libby and I had joy headaches. There really is a Santa — and it’s Oprah!” laughed Lacek.
Fred and Angela Reeves from Minnetonka were also in the audience, after Angela nominated her husband.
“My wife wrote in about me because she felt like I was her Superman,” said Fred Reeves, the founder of Street Therapy Interactive.
Street Therapy Interactive is a method of mediating disputes and encouraging communication between teachers and high-risk groups of students.
“A local public school district called me in to mediate a volatile situation (threats of gun violence on the school bus) between two different cultures of students (gang related),” he said.
“I was able to bring the teachers in on the discussion with the troubled youth and they were able to engage the students on their level. That allowed them to began understanding the troubled youth and start building a meaningful relationship with them,” said Reeves.
As for Oprah’s show, he said he “didn’t expect it” and “didn’t know it was coming.”
Reeves said he’ll probably share some of the gifts he got with family and friends.
Lacek invited supporters and employees of Faith’s Lodge over to her Minneapolis home to watch Oprah. During the viewing party, she gave many of her “Favorite Things” away to those people.
“The people who’ve been so dedicated to Faith’s Lodge and who help make Faith’s Lodge what it is, they are going to get to experience some of the joy that Libby and I got to experience at the Oprah show,” said Lacek.