June 26, 2008
Terri Runnels giving away homeFormer WWE Diva making the world a better place
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
On June 3rd, former WWE Diva Terri Runnels announced the Make The World "Write" essay contest. The prize? Her home and $100,000.
The contest, which ends August 3rd, 2008, is eligible to anyone worldwide and requires at least 5,000 entries with a $200 per entry fee.
"The idea came about because I was going to sell my home and move out of Gainsville (Fla.), and the housing market absolutely stinks. This is something another person had done that I had heard of and I thought it was a great idea," Runnels told SLAM! Wrestling. "Their essay was to write a story about your pet. I love my pets but that is not something impactful to the rest of the world. I wanted to do something that helps me in terms of getting fair market value and taking care of my family from a real estate standpoint, but also benefits other people. So that is where the idea of the extra $100,000 came in. I wanted to make people stop and think and put pen to paper about how they would change the world to make it a better place. In a nutshell, and very candidly, that is how the whole thing came about."
It is amusing to Runnels that Vince McMahon announced his million-dollar giveaway as she was putting the final touches on her contest.
"I have been working on this for over a month and when he announced that, I thought people would think I was copying him," Runnels said. "I had to rush the press release to make sure it was out there less than 24 hours after he made his announcement. It killed me. I didnít copy him. They have actually commented on the WWE website and given me press."
The home is located in Gainsville, Fla., home of the University of Florida and the Florida Gators. The city takes pride in the fact that the college is the reigning national champion in both football and basketball.
"The nickname we have is 'Titletown USA,'" Runnels said. "It is a fun thing to live here and be part of that excitement and passion where sports are concerned."
The 2,500-square foot, four-bedroom home also has three bathrooms, an open concept floor plan, and a number of additions.
"The pool, including waterfalls, and hot tub were designed by me," boasted Runnels. "There is a playhouse for (her daughter) Dakota with ceramic tile and electricity, cable, if you wanted to have an office out there. It was designed as a playhouse for a child and I just went a little overboard. It looks like a little mini-home. If an older couple moved in here and the wife wanted to paint, it would be a great paint studio or an office. So many people who see it think it is cool. That is part of the property also."
The contest's $200 entry fee has received some criticism, something Terri quickly rejects.
"This has been done for many years, but I just recently heard of this," Runnels said. "I can give credit that I stole the idea from somebody else. The person I took the idea from also had a fee of $200 and the minimum entries were over 6,000. I have gotten a couple of comments from people that (ex-husband) Dustin (Goldust, Black Reign) bought the house for me and I was just going to make off with a million dollars. Dustin didnít put one penny into my home. I bought a home in downtown Atlanta right before I met him. What I made from selling that years later I used for the down payment on this house. Dustin didnít give me a penny in the divorce; I didnít ask for it. My attorney said I could have child support and alimony and I said I didnít want alimony -- I could take care of myself.
"Literally, nothing that has to do with this home has anything to do with Dustin. That doesnít mean I have any ill will towards him, I love him and he is the father of my child. But for the people out there thinking I am making off with a million bucks, on the contrary. I know where my heart is and what I want to do, and the only thing that happens when people negate something is to bring it to the forefront. I would prefer people to see it as a positive and know that only good things are happening for people through the contest, but if they donít see it that way, let them talk. There is a purpose for me doing the minimum, to make sure that everything is taken care of. Bottom line is I have to pay off my home, pay capital gains tax, and buy a new property."
Runnels added that she has a motive behind this contest.
"When any of us sit and take the time to write out what we want to do to help other people, there is something about writing it out that actually makes a difference," she said. "I am hoping that even if they donít win people will go, 'I want to do this idea,' and make it happen. If it is successful in terms of it being a popular thing, I will do this yearly. I will buy a property and do the contest annually and it will be something that is a positive every year. I will probably not do the minimum in other years."
Runnels has her own dreams of how she would like to make the world a better place.
"My child is the catalyst for this idea," Runnels said. "I want to create a property with a barn on it and paddocks where there are horses that children with handicaps or that are troubled, who donít have any direction in life, they can go there and have to be responsible for taking care of a barn, learning about and being friends with a horse. Because Dakota rides, and that has been her passion since she was two years old, that is in her honour and because I think it would be beneficial to help other people.
"To answer the naysayers, what is very interesting to me the people that have contacted the publicist and me and said positive things are positive people. The people who have said ugly and nasty things are negative people. I sleep well at night knowing that bottom line this contest helps everyone. I canít help any other family unless I help my own first. You spend $200 and there is a one-in-5,000 chance that you will have a home and $100,000 on top of it. If you spend the $200 and donít win, worst-case scenario is you have thought about how to make the world a better place and honed your writing skills."
"She is flipping four inches taller than I am. It kills me," laughed Terri. "Thank God she got her fatherís height or she would be a munchkin like me. This child when she was nine or ten, she was still shorter than I was, she came up to my chest. She is an awesome child, and she very honestly and innocently looked up at me and said, 'Mom, when I am taller than you, will I still have to mind you?' I am thinking to myself, 'Kid you are going to be taller than me next year so I canít use that as the reason you have to mind me.' I told her when she was 30 she would have to."
As a mom, she is dealing with the joys of having a teenager.
"She is a total teenager, she said to me the other day, 'Mom will you do me a favor? Will you let me have just a little bit of teenager attitude? Because I am supposed to have it and if you would just grant me that little bit of leeway it would make me feel better and I could say I had that period of time when everyone had attitude. But if I donít have it now I will probably have it later,'" Runnels said, laughing. "So I said, 'Alright, I will grant you a smidge of teenage attitude so donít push it, kiddo.' She is a good child, a smart child. She just graduated from St. Patís Catholic School and she won her school spelling bee two years in a row and went as far as regionals. She does very well in school and I couldnít be more blessed where that is concerned."
Children hold a soft spot for Runnels, who has for years dedicated herself to various charities including The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club of America, Children's Miracle Network, Hermie & Elliott Sadler Foundation, Autism Speaks, and Compassion International. Her website is dedicated to the memory of Cory Walter, who passed away in 2002 at the age of five.
"I met him at WWE New York one night," Terri explained. "He had tubes and needles in his chest and arms and his dad was holding him. I told the security guy to have him brought back to my dressing room. His dad brought him and his sister back, and he wouldnít let me hold him, he was clinging to dad. Within a few minutes of talking he let me hold him. I was talking to his father finding out what his illness was, why he had all these tubes, and when it was time to say goodbye he wouldnít leave my arms. He went from not wanting to come to me to not leaving me. At this point, the child was going through chemo and ridiculous amounts of pain. I gave them my cell phone number, and told them that every time he had to go through chemo to call me. I did that for so many kids over the years, and only those parents who have called me for their kids know who they are. A lot of them have died but some are still alive.
"As sad and depressing and hard as it was to deal with stuff like that, because I am a mother, all I could think was if my child was in that situation how much would I appreciate someone they were a fan of doing this for them, giving them their cell phone number so that the child could talk to them before or after a surgery or chemo. It was something that made me feel awesome inside. When I tell you that I am put on this earth to help other people, I know with the way that made me feel and the good that I know that I did, I know I can do so much more. I look forward to doing that."
"Hopefully, throughout the years the kids that have been sick or dying, all of the charities that I have worked with and for, the fans I have talked to, I have made the world a better place," said Runnels. "But I hope I have just scratched the surface. When I say that, I believe that I can make a difference, if this goes internationally I can do amazing things and that will make me so proud. Letís just say this were to really take off and there were 20,000 entries and I had to broaden the panel of judges to read the number of entries, awesome, great. Not only can I take care of my family, but I can create so much more. I will not liken myself to Oprah, but I will say that while there are things I donít like about the woman, I love the fact that she can change the world for the better with almost the blink of her eye. My life would not be complete if I could not help people who need help. I know people who make a crapload of money, but they donít use it for anything other than themselves, to have great homes, dress well, drive big cars and party. There is no way I could live with myself if I didnít help other people along with my good fortune. That is the child my mother raised, to do the right thing. Now I say it to my child."
Jason Clevett is from Calgary and thinks everyone should try and make the world a better place.