Where are Survivor’s REAL Heroes VS Villians?
Back in 2005 I appeared along side Jenn Lyon in Survivor Palau. We didn’t love each other in the game because honestly I found it hard to believe that someone so beautiful could also be so sweet and passive. As Jeff Probst said at her funeral “Jenn could have been one of the most boring contestants to ever play the game but at least she was beautiful.” Sad but true Jeff, she was far to normal to be on a reality Tv show. But we became fast friends when I was asked after our appearance on the show in 2005 by Access Hollywood to fly out to be with Jenn on her first round of treatments for her cancer. I let her shave my head, then I shaved hers, our bond was forever sealed. I later moved to LA where Jenn was located and was by her side as she battled the disease for 5 long years. In the beginning she lent me money to move out to LA and even picked out my apartment, which was sight unseen to me, because I trusted her so much. We would go to movies, she would give my daughter cookies, she would show up at my door randomly to sing me Christmas carols, the usual best friend stuff. We were together til the end of her life at 37 in 2010. We had many memories all good, we never fought, which is rare for me in a relationship. Even going to treatment with her was a honor for me and I feel lucky to have been there. I have so many memories of Jenn I want to write them all but I don’t have enough room. From washing her hair off her hospital bed to holding hands watching Avatar, I was lucky.
Fast forward a few years later I had moved back to Tyler Texas and Jenn had been gone for a few years. With our 40th birthday’s looming it left me with a nagging tug at my heart to not forget Jenn, who would also be turning 40 this year. I decided to spring forth a plan to launch a fundraiser for Cancer that didn’t depend on my Survivor friends to attend as most charities we do as ex-reality stars do. Normally our presence would be what would make sure the attendance of the event would bring in the money but this time instead, I turned to my home town of Tyler Texas. I have decided to put on a Burlesque Broadway type one night only event that will have local dancers, stand ups and improv groups to add to the nights festivities. The show will be a love letter for me to do some of my favorite acting bits all while being intertwined with telling of some of Jenn’s life stories. Most of Jenn’s family is flying in from Nevada to attend and her mother Jane who was by Jenn’s side on a daily basis has been helping me plan the event. Former contestant from the same season of Survivor Palau Janu Tornell, who I named my daughter after, is also going to be in attendance. We have already raised over $9,000 mostly from ticket sales alone, to aid in a local Cancer Clinic’s needs to help their patients with everything from gas cards to meeting deductibles for insurance.
I felt a strong need to write this article because in a age where Survivor seems to celebrate it’s Villian’s more than it’s Hero’s, I think it is important to remind people that Survivor can also bring people together. As I say, “If it wasn’t for Survivor I never would have meet my best friend, Jenn.” I don’t mean for all this to read as so self serving and boastful but really just to acknowledge that most people really want to do good. Because of Jenn and Survivor I want to do good. The attention in the last few years of the reality program has been for it’s negativity with contestants like Russel Hantz who has appeared on the show 3 times as a megaVillian and then last years most notorious Survivor One World contestant Colton Cumbie who was so hated on television for it that he received death threats. I get tired of something that was a beautiful experience to me being so constantly seen as only negative. Though I am sure that Lynne Spillman and Jeff Probst will cast them both again because they both seem obsessed with casting the villains of the game repeatedly. I would like to call out to casting and the creative team for a mind switch of the way the show is seen, it is past time for Survivor’s first All Star Charity edition.
But I digress.
Survivor is like life, there is good and bad everywhere but it is all what you want to focus on and what you do with it. This fundraiser has already brought my East Texas town closer together knowing that the 320 seats at the Liberty have sold out for the show on September 8th in Tyler Texas. I also know that Jenn’s family will know that Jenn Lyon is maybe gone but she is far from forgotten. This is my Happy 40th Birthday to Jenn written out with passion and love. In my own small way I am adding to all the Survivors before me who have done so much good in the world with their charity work, this is my small start. Thank you to everyone for your help and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
With the success I have already had with this fundraiser maybe I could turn it into a annual event and maybe next year invite more of my Survivor friends to do the show with me?
Maybe Russell Hantz and Colton Cumbie could do a number together.
We are still accepting donations online at JennLyonsICU.org.