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Oprah recognizes Grand County ‘hero’

Reid Armstrong/40 North
Grand County, CO Colorado

At some point a few years ago, I decided I needed to understand this whole Oprah thing.

All I knew about Oprah Winfrey – based on the check-out line tabloid covers – was that she’d apparently been on a yo-yo diet for years.

So I ‘queued’ her 20th anniversary DVD box set on Netflix and spent much of the weeks to come sitting on the couch, tissue box in hand, lost somewhere between Tom Cruise’s couch dance and John Travolta’s butt.



From the clips of her on her original show on a local Chicago network station to her interviews of Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou, I was amazed by all the good she’s done and in awe of the people she’s interviewed over the years.

And … OMG … the stuff she gives away!



So, while I was really excited to learn that one of our very own was just on Oprah’s final “Favorite Things” show, I was even more excited that I actually knew what that was.

Kathy Gingery, founder of Shining Stars, said she was a little surprised last month to hear from her sister’s friend in St. Louis, a woman she didn’t really know all that well. Ann Wild had nominated Kathy as a hero on Oprah’s website. Ann told Kathy how she had been an inspiration to her through some hard times.

“It was embarrassing and humbling to hear,” Kathy said.

Like me, Kathy knew very little about Oprah, but she knew just enough to see this as a good opportunity for her foundation.

“It was just an audience position, but you never know what can happen,” she said.

She had two days to buy a ticket, fly to St. Louis and drive to Chicago for the 8 a.m. Nov. 19 taping.

As the show began, Kathy had butterflies in her stomach over the possibility of being interviewed. But, a few minutes into the taping, Oprah – who was talking to the audience about the importance of meditation – ripped off her black gown revealing a red sequin dress.

“All of the sudden there was stuff falling from the ceiling, and I thought it was dirt,” Kathy said. “I still didn’t know what was happening.”

The set fell away behind Oprah and an entire stage of gifts was revealed.

“The audience went nuts,” Kathy said, adding that there were people in the aisles laying on their back kicking their arms and legs in the air, screaming.

“I’ve never been around anything so overwhelming,” Kathy said.

The first thing Oprah gave away was a Phillip Stein 25th anniversary “Oprah” diamond-studded watch.

And while the audience was going berserk, screaming and crying, Kathy was standing there thinking … oh this will be a great auction item for Shining Stars. Then her friend Ann turned to her and said: “The whole show is going to be like this.”

And, because IT IS Oprah, Kathy started crying.

Oprah continued to shower her audience with more than 40 gifts, like the Ralph Lauren cashmere sweater ($498), a Nikon D3100 Digital SLR camera ($700) and Judith Ripka Eclipse earrings ($525).

It wasn’t a surprise, given all the excitement, that Kathy was feeling a little ill as the show came to an end and the Black Eyed Peas surprised the audience with a live concert.

Kathy had to excuse herself and went to the bathroom where she started dry heaving, sweating and was keeled over with a cramp in her side.

Fortunately, Oprah had paramedics on hand and Kathy was rushed to the hospital where it turned out that the butterflies she had been feeling since the beginning of the show were actually a kidney stone. She spent the next 24 hours recovering in the hospital.

Kathy does plan to keep a few things for herself. Like the a 7-day adventure aboard the world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s “Allure of the Seas,” and the 3D, high definition TV that will replace the relic she currently uses.

But the rest of the items she plans to sell to Oprah collectors on Ebay or put into auctions and fundraisers for her 10-year-old organization that operates out of an office in Tabernash.

(As another sign of how out-of-the-loop I am when it comes to all things pop culture, I didn’t realize that this is Oprah’s last season – so the collectors are going nuts.)

The Shining Stars Foundation donates 95 percent of every dollar it raises to programs for families of children fighting cancer. (That’s in the top 1 percent nationally for non-profits.)

“Billions is spent on cancer research,” Kathy said. “This is just about the quality of life while living with cancer or some other life-threatening disease.”

For 25 years, Oprah has been reminding us that the Kathy Gingerys of the world are the true unsung heroes. And, I can’t help but wonder whether the earth will continue to revolve without the Oprah Show and, more importantly, who will make us cry?


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