Gary and Diane Heavin To Join Marc Paskin, John Ferber, Dani Johnson, and James Malinchak on ABC’s Secret Millionaire

Tonight is Houston, Texas and Gary and Diane Heavin.

Thank you to those who have come to read and comment already…I am just now settling in to watch, but from what I’ve read, it was an impressive show.

Follow along with me as I watch…away we go!!!

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Gary and Diane Heavin started a fitness empire together.  Diane c0-founded Curves International with her husband.

Two billion in revenue?  Not bad!  Congrats you two.

They have ranches in Texas and Australia and it seems like they have a nice life.  Diane says they take their wealth “seriously” and Gary says it’s important to give back to people.

Love it.  That’s why Curves is a success, in case you were wondering.

Diane said she was a bit anxious, and Gary agreed.  After the emotional goodbye with their daughter, the Heavins put their wealthy trappings on a table and took off for Houston on their private jet…Gary’s hometown.

20% of residents live in poverty and there’s a high crime rate…all around a cosmopolitan city that boasts a rich culture.

The area, the Third Ward, looked incredibly poor.  A median $5,500 household income doesn’t leave much for luxury…or simple living…or any living at all.  For six days, this would be the Heavins’s domain.

Diane was not impressed with the filth in the house.  In fact, she said, “it feels condemned.”

Their money?  Roughly $6.50 per person, per day…or $90.75 total for the week for both of them.  “Hard to understand,” Diane said…indeed.

A van in a grocery store said, “No More Victims” and it was a children’s charity.  This piqued Diane’s interest…I’m guessing a visit is in order.

On day two, the search for charities began.  No More Victims was first.  It is a charity for children whose parents are currently in jail or recently released.

Marilyn “Mamma G.” Gambrel was the representative, and the Heavin’s  went out on a ride-along with her.

“Brenda,” a woman who benefits from the program, said she is grateful for the group — counseling, support…y’know, things people need to get a new start when a new start is hard to find.

“Family for life.”  Nice.

Gary told the camera he remembers when he was little and growing up near this area…and that he was glad to be back to help.

No More Victims helps the community get back on track by encouraging children to process emotions through art instead of violence.  As a therapist, I understand the value of positive processing and encouraging people to be creative to be empowered.  It takes patience and support, but is there any more worthwhile task?  Especially with children.

Diane said the day was an “emotional rollercoaster,” and admitted the day was tough.

I can imagine.

Or, maybe I can’t.

———————-

On day three, the search for people making a difference continued.  Autism at The Sean Ashley House was up next.

Gary took a stroll down memory lane, remembering his childhood home and experiences.  It’s nice that he can give back to quickly.

The founder founded the House for her grandson who was born autistic.  She wanted a place he could go if something ever happened to her.  A beautiful motivation.

Diane and Gary took the day to volunteer.  One in 100 children are affected by autism, so the need for these homes is paramount.  The day program at The Sean Ashley House is the only one in the state.

No government funds.

But a lot of need.

Gary seemed particularly affected by his experience.  Gary said he was uncomfortable, because it was so difficult to communicate.  Gary’s grandson is autistic and Gary was open about his experience with his grandson.

Gary, thank you for being honest on national television.  I’m sure a lot of folks share your point of view when it comes to folks with special needs, and perhaps we all need a little more education on autism.  Thanks for starting the dialogue.

———————-

Day four brought more searching…and peanut butter and jelly.  They headed to a health and fitness place called The Lazarus House.  Trainer Boyd came up to greet them.  They are a non-profit to service folks with muscle wasting diseases (cancer, HIV, MS).  The group also provides support groups.  The goal?  To buy the house.

This is the only program of its kind in Houston.  One client, Charlie, stated that she is “doing something for myself” to build muscle and get more energy.  And when that positive attitude comes into play, is there anything we can’t do?  And when you hear Charlie’s story, you know how precious a positive attitude can be.

Diane and Charlie had a conversation about HIV and what it means to live with a disease that is often misunderstood.  Charlie stated that she has reduced her pills from 20 to 2 just in the time she’s been working out at The Lazarus House.  Diane admitted she had “preconceived ideas” about HIV and said that she learned something from being with Charlie…that people are people no matter what “disease” they carry.

In the end, that makes no difference whatsoever.

And really, isn’t it only our humanity that makes us human?

———————-

The Heavin’s started day five at No More Victims.  They sat in with Momma G. on a counseling session for kids.  There was food, smiles, tears, and seriousness…but most importantly, there was dialogue.

Dialogue.

Speaking.

Processing.

Sharing.

The kids shared what they were really feeling about family and life, and it was clearly not easy, but it was happening…and if we can get people to talk, we can get them to heal.

A peer reminded the kids, “We’re here for each other.”  People tell us all kinds of noise about how we’ll never be anything or how we’ll never succeed…and it’s just noise.  We aren’t statistics.  We are opportunities.  And we need people to remind us of that so that we can live it.

At The Sean Ashley House, it was a day of horseback riding.  According to the show, equine therapy has shown some success in managing autism.  Gary admitted again that he was out of his comfort zone, but he then said that when he started to really pay attention and tune in, the communications began.  He said it was “joyful.”

The joy of connection.  It’s always available with a smile or a word.

———————-

Finally, the day of giving arrived.  Diane and Gary admitted the folks they’ve met were “remarkable,” with “great hearts.”

The Lazarus House was the first stop.  Diane told Boyd she admired his heart and passion and she also thanked Charlie.  The Heavin’s revealed themselves as the Curves founders.

Then, they presented The Lazarus House with a check for $100,000.  Boyd was speechless…but he did manage a “thank you!”

No More Victims was next.  The Heavins sat down with Momma G and made the big reveal.  They presented a check for $50,000.  Again, not much talking, but a lot of tears and smiles.

Gary then gave something to Warren, the peer support.  $10,000.  The look on his face was priceless.

We don’t work in non-profits because we want millions.  We work in it to be of service.  And when good things come to folks like Warren at No More Victims, well, that is something behind which we can all rally.

———————-

The Heavin’s last stop was The Sean Ashley House for autism.  They presented The Sean Ashley House with a $250,000 check.

But when Diane presented client Justin with a pair of sunglasses, well, that was probably the biggest smile of all…

Isn’t that good perspective for all of us regarding giving?

Come to think of it, maybe that’s good perspective for everything in life…all the time.

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3 responses to “Gary and Diane Heavin To Join Marc Paskin, John Ferber, Dani Johnson, and James Malinchak on ABC’s Secret Millionaire

  1. Was very impressed watching Gary & Diane Heavin give such great donations to deserving people and organizations this evening on TV. We are interested in helping those in need that have a mental illness and those many family members and caregivers that need support, education and advocacy. We are a non-profit, all volunteers in NAMI-Charlotte, since 1971. We truly need a new exclusive mental health hospital in North Carolina to fully address this need and much more education for all at large. Roger Melville, Education Programs Director, NAMI-Charlotte, 704-333-8218. Thanks for your consideration. We lost our son to suicide in 2006. He was born bipolar. Every 16 minutes someone takes their life now. We could help stop this by education and more available mental health support.

  2. Was very impressed watching Gary & Diane Heavin give such great donations to deserving people and organizations this evening on TV. We are interested in helping those in need that have a mental illness and those many family members and caregivers that need support, education and advocacy. We are a non-profit, all volunteers in NAMI-Charlotte, since 1971. We truly need a new exclusive mental health hospital in North Carolina to fully address this need and much more education for all at large. Roger Melville, Education Programs Director, NAMI-Charlotte, 704-333-8218. Thanks for your consideration. We lost our son to suicide in 2006. He was born bipolar. Every 16 minutes someone takes their life now. We could help stop this by education and more available mental health support.

    • @ROGER: Thank you for your comment. NAMI is indeed a worthy cause. I’m not the Secret Millionaire unfortunately, but I am happy to host this comment here. Thank you for taking the time to post it.

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