Happy 4th July!I know I’m not American but there are intrinsic freedoms I enjoy by being lucky enough to be a citizen of this great (and flawed) country. What I love most is the freedom to be me, the right to a better life and a belief intrinsically instilled in everyone that every single person has as much chance of making their dreams come true as anyone else including the freedom to pursue them.
I have Olivia Newton John to thank for being here. Not only because when I was applying for my visa she was the very first person to respond with a letter of recommendation (thank you again ONJ) but it was the Great Wall of China Walk and the people I met on it that really connected me to the USA, I place I had dreamed of breaking into with my books but never really thought possible.
I was hosting Biggest Loser 4 years ago when I got a call asking if I would consider walking The Great Wall of China with Olivia Newton John (and others) to raise funds to build a state of the art cancer wellness Center in Australia. I wanted to say yes straight away but I was a single mom of a boy with Aspergers, I had only just broken up with my fiance, I had no one who could look after Kai and I had never been away from him for more than a day or two let alone be in remote China for a whole month!
But I believed in the cause and wanted to do something that would help. Olivia’s story of using traditional and modern medicine to save her life (and now countless others) has been a guiding light for so many. When she asks you to jump, you simply have to say,”How high?” So I set about making it happen. I moved into a house with another single mom, we hired a young college girl from Hawaii who was a family friend of the other mom to come live in and have a paid holiday in Australia and I agreed to do half the walk – not knowing how my son would cope with me so far away from him for so long. Sometimes the cause is bigger than your own needs and this was one of those moments.
I then set about harassing everyone I knew and worked with to donate but it wasn’t easy. I was new to celebrity so my rolodex was not something to brag about and if truth be told, I’m not much of a celebrity anyway – I hated red carpet events and only ever did them if they had a good cause or I was obliged to do them for work. I made two exceptions to that rule during my time on the B list in Australia and both times were to benefit my son (once when his hero David Beckham came to town and another so he could get Ed Hardy gear his favorite at the time and something I could certainly not afford).
But I did it, we walked some of the most incredible parts of China – from the eastern and western tips, through the Gobi dessert and over some of the oldest parts of “The Wall”, so worn down with time, you wouldn’t even know you were on it. And for a long time I was one of the highest fund raisers on the walk which was not bad for a girl from a small town in outback Australia called Mummulgum. I’d come a looong way. The Walk was incredible. We walked alongside survivors of cancer, with people who had lost loved ones to the disease, people who believed in the cause, doctors making a difference in finding a cure and some high powered celebrities who just believed passionately in lending their name to a very good cause.
I met people who changed my life (in so many ways) and who continue to inspire and motivate me to this day. We shared laughter, tears, hope, joy and bonded because what we were walking for was bigger than any of us. Olivia is an ethereal being – an angel who really was meant to stay on this earth to send a message of light, love, hope, health and wellness. Being with Olivia is akin to being with The Dalai Llama (someone I have also had some close time with and a story for another day) but what makes Olivia the incredible person that she is, she would blush and brush that comment aside because she is HUMILITY personified.
I can’t tell you how much she inspires me on a daily basis – her generosity, love and radiant inner beauty. The path she travels leads the way for so many of us to take a moment out of our lives and be grateful for what we have but to also think what else we can give.
The Wellness center was opened a few weeks ago and not only will many people live longer lives because of it but one day they WILL find the cure for cancer and we will not lose the many other angels like Olivia who are not so lucky.
I am thankful to have been a part of that Walk, proud to be just one little speck of cement in the foundation of hope that has been built from Olivia’s dream and I hope that if you have any spare change that you will go and donate to save even more lives.
And now, because laughter is the best medicine, a lighter moment from the walk starring Mike Goldman, Danni Minogue, Adam Sutton and myself….