Stephanie C's Blog Post
Monday, November 4th, 2013
Hi! I’m Stephanie C., from Harleysville, PA. I’d like to share my Wheel of Fortune adventure with you! For as long as I can remember, I have watched Wheel. I remember as a child, watching the contestants rack in the money and buy items for their homes. How I dreamed, that one day, that would be me.
Currently, I am a first grade teacher, and letters and building words are a big part of my day. I continue to watch Wheel of Fortune every night and I’m a spin ID member as well. That’s where my Wheel of Fortune journey begins...
Right before Labor Day 2012, I received an email searching for Wheel of Fortune contestants from the Philadelphia area. I thought this is my chance! I had my daughter, Madison, video my application and I hit send before I had a chance to even think about it! Then, a few days later, we were watching TV and a commercial came on for local Wheel of Fortune auditions. My daughter immediately picked up the phone and called my husband, who was at work. She said “Daddy, we have to take Mommy to Atlantic City on Saturday so she can try out for Wheel of Fortune!” So, Saturday morning, bright and early, we made the 2 hour drive to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Believe it or not, I wasn’t nervous... I didn’t know what to expect. I was just so excited to be starting this journey. We arrived to see the huge Wheel Mobile RV parked along-side the casino hotel. We parked and I posed for some pictures by the iconic vehicle. Once inside, we found out that there would be three mock shows. There were thousands of people in attendance and each of the three shows selected about 25 people to “try-out” on stage. I filled out the application and ventured into the auditorium. It was incredible! The stage was set up looking like the actual show. We went through all 3 audition shows and my name was never called.... I was bummed, but didn’t give up hope. The announcer told us that all of the applications would be sent back to Los Angeles to be looked over. In the meantime, I continued to practice Wheel of Fortune by watching the show nightly and playing the iPad version of the game.
Mid-October came. I was at school closing down my classroom for the day and decided to check my email in case I had a last minute parent email. When I opened my email, I screamed! All I saw was “WOF second audition” in the subject area! I quickly scanned through the email, hit print and ran to the office to put in for a personal day!
On October 25th, I headed back down to Atlantic City for the next phase of my Wheel of Fortune experience! My husband came with me and spent the 3 hours on the casino floor. When I got into the audition room, I was happy to see that there were only 50 people with me. The contestant crew took our names and made a seating chart. They called on us and asked us to play part of the game. They were checking to see how loud our voice was, how clearly we spoke and our excitement level. I was first to be called on and rocked it! We had fun playing pop-up rounds. Then, we were told that we were going to take a test. We were given a clipboard, mini Wheel of Fortune pencil and the test paper. We had 5 minutes to complete as many puzzles as we could on the paper. No one finished, but I came close. The contestant crew gave us a 15 minute break while they marked our tests. When we returned to the room, we were told the names of the 18 people that would be moving on to the next round. My name was called!! I was on Cloud 9! We were broken into three groups of six. My group was first to come up and play. This time, we had to pretend to spin the wheel. We were told to really “spin it hard as the actual wheel weighs over 1,000 pounds!” It was my turn to spin. I was the third person in my group and I already knew the puzzle. I spun the wheel and called a letter I spun again, called another letter and then solved the puzzle! I solved the second puzzle, too. I was really excited now! After all of the remaining candidates were finished, they told us that IF we were to become contestants, we would get a letter in the mail in two weeks. If we didn’t receive a letter, thanks for trying out.
Two weeks was the day after my sister’s birthday that was easy to remember. We headed back to PA and the waiting began. Unfortunately, our area was hit by Hurricane Sandy and so my mind was taken off of the Wheel of Fortune waiting game. That is until the two-week deadline came. I rushed to the mailbox that Thursday... nothing from LA! I was really upset. My daughter said, “Mom, don’t worry. Remember we just had Hurricane Sandy our mail is all messed up.” Okay, I thought, she has a point. The next day came and again, NOTHING in the mailbox! Now, I was devastated. It looked like my dream was not going to come true. This time, my husband said, “Steph, don’t forget Election Day was this week and we had no mail on Tuesday. All of the mail has been pushed back.” This gave me a little hope thanks honey! Then, on Saturday morning, my husband decided to mow the lawn one last time for the season. He started up the mower and then I heard it stop and the doorbell rang. The mail had arrived and he was bringing it in. I saw all of the magazines in his hand and honestly, thought nothing of it. I opened the door as he said, “Would you like to open it or should I?” as he turned his wrist and the mail to reveal my Wheel of Fortune letter! I screamed and then started crying! My daughter came running downstairs and we all jumped and cheered as I opened my letter (that still hangs on my refrigerator door)! I carefully read the letter and saw that it could take up to 18 months to be called as a contestant... but that was fine with me I WAS GOING TO BE ON WHEEL OF FORTUNE!
Now the waiting game began. My husband and I decided that when I got the call, we were going to make a family vacation out of it. So, we started looking at places to visit in California while we were there. It seemed like a very long school year for me. Finally, June came and the school year had come to an end. I was working on my last teacher work day and at the end of the day took my daughter to our family dentist. Of course, the dentist and everyone in her office knew about Wheel of Fortune, so when I arrived the receptionist asked me about it. I said I hadn’t been called yet - that it could be anytime in the next 11 months. She was very positive and said, “Maybe you’ll get a call this summer to go out for Teacher’s Week!” I thought that would be great! We sat down to wait for my daughter to be called back and I started looking through a magazine, when my cell phone rang. OH MY GOD! It was a number from Culver City, CA! I yelled, “OMG, It’s Wheel of Fortune!!” I quickly answered the phone and was asked if I was still a teacher. YES! Then, I was asked if I was available to come out to film an episode on July 11th. “OF COURSE!” I was writing things down on post-it notes and could barely contain myself. I thought I was on candid camera at first! It just seemed so surreal! I made phone calls to inform family and friends while my daughter was in with the dentist. We booked our trip and within 3 weeks, we were west coast bound!
We arrived in LA on a Saturday morning as we decided to stay a week. We enjoyed touring California and hitting all of the parks! Wednesday night, we arrived back to our hotel and I ordered a cab for Thursday morning to take me to Sony Studios. I had to be there by 7:30 and my family couldn’t arrive until 11:30 that morning. I got a good night sleep and woke up excited but ready to play. I got dressed and did my hair and makeup. I headed down to the lobby a few minutes early and discovered that my cab had left without me (hmmm... I was 5 minutes early). The hotel concierge ordered the hotel limo to take me to the Studio. What a way to start my day! Tune in to Wheel of Fortune on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 to find out how my day turned out!
Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
As the limo dropped me off at Sony Studios, I had such excitement inside me. I had my colorful outfit on, my spare outfit in a garment bag and my cell phone in the off position. The contestants were expected to be at the studio by 7:30. We were escorted into the studio and walked through the hair and make-up area to the room where we would be sequestered for the next several hours. There were 20 of us 18 contestants and two standby players. We were introduced to the contestant crew and made small talk with the other contestants while we waited for the fun to begin. We were given some information to read over and were told how the day would go.
After going over some legal matters and changes to this season’s game (the new Express wedge), we were taken out onto the studio floor. My first thought was “Wow it’s so much smaller than it appears on television!” I was so excited to finally be living my dream. We practiced spinning the wheel and calling letters to solve puzzles. At this time, I realized that the other teachers that were here with me for Teacher Week were on the same playing level as I was. I thought that I had some tough competition. Everyone was super friendly and we started talking about where we lived, taught and how our journey was going so far. We went back into the room and the next thing we knew Vanna White walked in saying, “Hi everybody!” She was so nice! She wished us all good luck. She left to get ready and we were all pinching ourselves!
Soon, we were called back a few at a time to get out hair and make-up touched up for high-definition taping. My day was off to a good start... limo ride, hair, make-up... I could get used to this! While I was in the hair and make-up area, the crew started assigning groups. One of the contestants playing with me, picked a numbered ball to determine which show we would appear on. He picked ball number 6! This meant that we would not be on the official Teacher Week but our show would air at a later date. That was ok with me, it just meant that I would be able to sit in the audience and watch all of the week’s episodes. Next, each contestant picked a colored die this determined which spot (red, yellow or blue) we would stand at. Before the games started, each contestant had to film a commercial clip to promote their appearance on Wheel of Fortune. I got up and said, “Hi! I’m Stephanie from Harleysville, watch me play Wheel on 6ABC!” That was really cool so much goes on behind the scenes!
Shortly before noon, we were escorted out to the audience area. We sat and watched our new friends spin the wheel, solve the puzzles and win cash and prizes. Finally, around 5:30, my microphone was hooked up, as it was my group’s turn to go. Although, we had met Vanna earlier, I still hadn’t met Pat. I took my place at the red spot as the music started. Pat and Vanna were walking out and I was right there with them, clapping and cheering and getting a little emotional. Pat Sajak was now standing right next to me! He instructed us to pick up our hand-held devices and get ready for the first toss up puzzle! A few letters popped up and I knew the puzzle I clicked my buzzer and waited for Pat to say my name. I answered, loud and clear just like we had practiced, “AN AMERICAN ICON!” I thought, “Yes, I am standing right next to one.”
I won the first puzzle had $1,000 and was ready to talk to Pat! At this point, I was a bit nervous and really can’t recall exactly what I said to him as he introduced me. The other players were introduced and we started the game again. The second pop-up puzzle came and I clicked in a bit late. The game was going so fast! The wheel was heavy and it just didn’t want to go my way. I hit bankrupt a lot! I solved another puzzle after landing on the $2,500 wedge and calling for 2 Ns. With $5,000 in my bank and the amount of bankrupts I had landed on, I wasn’t willing to risk it. So, I solved another puzzle “INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY.” I was now at $6,000 and really happy! The game continued and the other contestants were solving puzzles and winning cash and prizes as well. It was an extremely close game at times, less than $800 separated the three of us. Looking at the scoreboard, off to the side, I knew I was in third place with my $6,000. My final chance came, it was the last round and Pat had to give the wheel a final spin! I thought to myself, “At least I can’t land on another bankrupt!” I was able to solve this puzzle “RULING THE ROOST” and it sent me over the top and off to the Bonus Round!!
On my way over to the Bonus Round, I had a practice spin on the smaller wheel and then it was show time again. I introduced my husband, David, and my daughter, Madison, sitting in the audience. I spun the wheel (it landed on the “C” in America’s). I handed Pat the wedge and then he took my hand and led me over to the final puzzle of my adventure. Going into the bonus round, I had already won $12,000. Pat told me that the puzzle was an “Event.” RSTLN and E were called. The puzzle was 2 words long, each word with 4 letters. I had S _ _ N _ _ _ E. My first thought was that the first word was “SCAN.” I called the following letters: CDM and an A (I had decided on these letters ahead of time). The “A” and a “D” came up. I knew it! I took a deep breath and called out “SWAN DIVE!” I did it! I solved the puzzle!! Pat opened the card to reveal that I had just won a brand new 2014 Mazda 6 and $5,000 cash! My husband and daughter came rushing onto the stage and pulled me toward our new car! I didn’t even have time to give Pat a hug! Vanna was so excited for us! She opened the car door and had me sit inside and wave to America! After I got out of the car, Pat and Vanna congratulated me again and talked with my family for a few minutes. It was such an amazing experience!
At the close of the show, I got to go back on stage again and we talked about all of the wonderful places we had visited this week in California. They were impressed with how much we squeezed into this trip! At the end of the day, I went up and signed some paperwork and was congratulated by the members of the contestant crew! All of the backstage crew members were amazing and so genuinely happy for the contestants! As I left the studio, there were still people from the audience outside who continued to congratulate me. I felt like a celebrity for a few minutes. As we were heading out, Pat and Vanna came out of the studio to head home for the day and they waved and congratulated me once more. Before going onto Wheel of Fortune, my dream was to win enough money to get an in-ground pool in our backyard. In the end, I walked away with a brand new 2014 Mazda 6 and $17,000 in cash for a grand total of $47,590 in cash and prizes. Not bad for a day’s worth of PLAY! I am eternally grateful for this experience.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone at Wheel of Fortune for this incredible experience! And, if you ever decide to invite former winners back to play again call me, I’d LOVE to come back and play!