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Dream Come True for Octogenarian

Since the Wheel of Fortune TV show debuted in 1983, Alice Abruzzini of Gordon Valley has invited Pat Sajak and Vanna White into her family room for a half hour of fun and games every Monday through Friday between 7:30pm and 8:00pm. Friends and family know not to call the octogenarian weekdays during that half hour or they’ll get this curt answer” “Sorry I can’t talk right now because I’m watching Wheel of Fortune. Please call back later!”

One of the top items on her bucket list for three decades has been to visit the set as part of the audience. Since she is 87, living in Northern California without any ties to the show, she was certain that was one bucket list item that would never be crossed out. In November of 2015 her grandson-in-law, Los Angeles firefighter Brian Rankin spent a day auditioning to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. At the end of the day, the casting director informed him that if he was chosen it would probably take two years before a shoot date was selected.

Exactly two weeks later, Brian’s phone rang and he was informed that he not only had been chosen to compete, but they needed him in the studio the following week. There were two caveats: 1. He could only bring four people as his audience cheerleaders; 2. They had cast four people for three spots on the show. There was a 25% chance that he would not be this shoot date.

Although he would invite his wife, Heather Brittany, his mother, Joan (who is a also a great fan), and his mother-in-law, Cynthia Abruzzini, he knew that his first choice was Wheel of Fortune’s greatest fan, his grandmother-in-law, Nonie. Alice was ecstatic with the invitation until she looked at her calendar and realized that she had already R.S.V.P’d “yes” to another important family event. When you are the mother of five, grandmother of eleven, great grandmother to ten, and Nonie to everyone, juggling celebrations is cause for anxiety. With the rest of the family’s blessing and enthusiastic encouragement, Nonie set off for her Wheel of Fortune adventure in Los Angeles.

Fortunately Brian was chosen as a contestant for that specific date and Nonie was able to live her dream, clapping, yelling, and screaming from the audience bleachers.

She waved to Pat and Vanna and even had her photograph taken with them!

But there is more excitement for this energetic local great grandmother. She makes TV history as the first person to ever wave goodbye in the final minutes with Pat other than Vanna in 30 years! Look for the show of April 11, 2016 in your search engines for this exciting moment.


Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best selling author, radio personality, freelance writer, and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 non profit.

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