A GIFTED FAMILY The Walstrom Family (left to right) of dad Wes, sisters Bailey and Kirby and mom Kym lucked out in November as audience members of the Ellen DeGeneres Show.Photo submitted

By Eric Elliott

Pioneer Staff

There are few people who are able to say that theyve seen Ellen DeGeneres, one of the most famous television hosts in the world, on her show in person. Fewer still are in the lucky group of people who are a part of her 12 Days of Giveaways show.

The Walstrom family of Fairmont Hot Springs can check off both of those boxes, though.

It was Kirbys birthday weekend getaway for us so ultimately it was just to go to the show, Kym said. Who knew it would be the gift that just kept on giving? They just said, You are invited back, and the whole crowd got to go back. You have 400 people cheering, hugging, crying and laughing and high-fiving.

To be part of the audience in the first place, the Walstrom family needed a certain degree of luck. Many times Kym had visited the Ellen website looking for tickets to the show, but had always received the discouraging, fully booked response. In August, though, she was surprised to see that tickets were available so she quickly submitted her request for four tickets in hopes of giving her daughter Kirby the ultimate present for her 30th birthday.

Opening a wrapped framed picture of Ellen DeGeneres on her big day, Kirby found out that she would get the chance to see Ellen, one of her lifelong idols, in person in early November with her mom Kym, her sister Bailey and father Wes.

It was one of those things that you didnt think could ever happen, she said, noting that Ellen was even more mesmerizing in person than she was on TV. You dont expect someone who is such an idol to actually be real. And she was even better than I could have imagined!

On November 10th, the family made their way to California for the airing of the show, planning to return to their home in the Columbia Valley only two days later. Ms. DeGeneres had other plans, however, allowing one of her guests to play a game that would win the entire audience a prize. After winning the game, it was revealed that the prize was Day 1 of the 12 Days of Giveaways a staple of her talk show during the holiday season for years.

As soon as Ellen said we all won the 12 Days of Giveaways, the whole crowd went nuts, said Kirbys sister Bailey. People were hugging and crying and screaming, it was awesome.

Receiving the unexpected gift of a family vacation in California for a week, they would have to wait until the following Thursday to receive their Giveaway gifts at a second show though. After spending their days shopping, watching movies while enjoying the sun and visiting Disneyland, they were rewarded at the Ellen show with the giveaway of a lifetime.

It started with each guest receiving a $250 gift card to Nordstrom and $500 to GlassesUSA.com, before being given the Solo3 wireless Beats headphones. In addition, each guest received two return tickets from Southwest Airlines, which could be used at 12 international destinations including Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, an all-inclusive resort that Ellen included in the giveaway package.

Kym said the family intends on using the all-inclusive trip to Jamaica together next November while taking advantage of the glasses gift card in the near future. More than the giveaways though, she said the family will never forget the gift that kept on giving.

It was just a whirlwind adventure for us, she said. What started out as a fun family getaway turned out to be an extraordinary experience for us. It was just so exciting, and so thrilling and we felt so blessed.