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May 8, 2013

Welchel speaks at Healthy Woman anniversary

MT. VERNON — — The Healthy Woman Eighth Year Anniversary was a celebration of women, survival and friendships.

The guest speaker, actress and author Lisa Welchel, spoke about the camaraderie of women.

"Friendships not only are good for emotional healing, but for physical healing," Welchel said. "Personally, friendship is life changing. Connecting with others allow us to receive the love of God. With that love and friendships, we feel accepted and connected. ... It doesn't matter about your circumstances."

Welchel was known to an older generation for her role as Blair Warner on The Facts of Life. Last year, she was a contestant in Survivor: Phillippines, and was tied for second place when voted off. She won top honors among those watching the show, as she was voted fan favorite.

"The great thing about appearing on Survivor is that there is a broader age group that recognize me," Welchel said. "There are kids, 13 and 14 yers old, who watch the show and love Survivor."

Welchel jokingly said the bad part about the rejuvenated fame the show has inspired in fans is not being as anonymous as she once was.

"On Facts of Life, my character was known for her hair," Welchel said. "For years after the show, I could go out with no makeup and my hair in a pony tail and no one would recognize me. Well, on Survivor, I didn't wear makeup and wore my hair in a pony tail. People recognize me more now."

Welchel is also the author of 15 books, with her first about her own perspective as a mother with a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

"I wasn't interested in writing, it wasn't a dream of mine," Welchel said. "A friend of mine was going to breakfast with a publisher who was looking for ideas for books, and she invited me along. ... I was deep in the throes of raising a child with ADHD and had to get creative with discipline and such. ... I started writing out of my own sense of failure, guilt and work."

Her most recent book is about friendship —  Friendship for Grown-ups: What I Missed & Learned Along the Way." Information about the book states, "When Welchel was  a child star on the TV show Facts of Life, meaningful relationships eluded her. In this candid account, she shares how she learned to trust, risk pain and reach out to others."

Welchel also allowed members of the audience to ask about her Survivor experience. Welchel shared that as bad as the Survivor circumstances look on TV, it is "a million times worse than it looks," and joked that she agreed to do the show in a moment of temporary insanity.

"I wanted to do the show," Welchel said. "I'm a huge fan. I am a gamer, I love games. ... This seemed like the ultimate game to play. I love camping. But, it is not what you expect. It is really, really roughing it."

Welchel said no help is offered to contestants, and all challenges are set up months in advance so no advantage is given to any contestant.

"None of it is scripted," Welchel said. "There is nothing done again to get a better shot. What you see is what happens."

In addition to hearing from Welchel, those at the event were able to enjoy a special style show, where the contestants were voted off by the audience.

Models were from five area charities, and the surviving model received $500 from Healthy Woman and able to keep the clothing they modeled. Models were Becky Whisenant of CASA; Lynn Hutchison of United Way of Southcentral Illinois; Trisha Higgins of Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, Hillary Settle of Cedarhurst Center for the Arts and Kyle Walden of YMCA of Jefferson County.

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