Tina Wesson, a Knoxville native who won the second season of the CBS-TV hit series “Survivor,” has been named keynote speaker of Empowering Women 2014.
The annual fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland will be held Thursday, May 8, at 7 p.m. at the Cleveland Country Club.
Empowering Women is not only a widely respected BGCC fundraising benefit, it is also heralded as an outlet for honoring and acknowledging the women of Cleveland and Bradley County, and their contributions, inspirations and influence within the community, according to Charles Sutton, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland executive director.
“The mission is to bring more awareness into the community that younger women need strong female role models,” Sutton said. “The event itself involves a dinner and auction, providing opportunities for community partnerships through table sponsorship, donation of auctioned items, and bidding.”
Wesson, who prevailed in the “Outwit, Outplay and Outlast” TV series (the Australian Outback edition), is the author of “Out Live, Out Laugh, Out Love.”
Wesson has been described by Entertainment Weekly as “... about as threatening as June Cleaver holding a plate of warm cookies,” yet she triumphed on TV’s top-ranked reality show with a combination of mental shrewdness, physical stamina and Southern charm. The Tennessean won the hearts of viewers, and claims this accomplishment was just a chapter in living “a life less ordinary.”
Wesson embraces life as a story — where each event and accomplishment works as a chapter to fully express who she is, her passions and attributions, Sutton pointed out.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Wesson became a flight attendant before pursuing her career degree in the health care field. She held positions in a hospital, home health care agency and a private duty nurse for individuals with severe paralysis.
After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1994, Wesson has since become a spokesperson for the National Arthritis Foundation. She completed the Ireland and Honolulu marathon for the foundation’s Joints in Motion program. An accomplished athlete, Wesson has won two Tennessee state racquetball championships, as well as the mixed-double division of the state tennis championship. She finished third in state singles.
Wesson is considered a role model in high achievements and healthy living.
A woman of faith, she is an involved member of the interdenominational Evangelical Free Church and is involved in many other faith-based organizations.
Wesson’s character and personality have endeared her to millions of “Survivor” fans. She is a member of the Outstanding Young Women of America, and is an advocate for adoption and adopted children’s rights.
Empowering Women master of ceremonies will be Karen Mills, a nationally touring comedian and native of Cleveland.
Mills is currently a comedian on tour with Southern Fried Chicks, and can be heard regularly on Sirius/XM Blue Collar & Laugh USA. She is a former Bradley Central High School Bearette whose basketball teams won back-to-back state and national championships in 1976 and 1977. She is best remembered for sinking the “last shot” to win the state finals in 1976.
She attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she continued to play basketball. In 1981, she led the nation in assists and became the first Division 1 First Team All-American in UTC history, male or female. Her No. 12 jersey was retired and she became the first female inducted into UTC’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
For more information on ticket purchases and sponsorship levels, contact Beth Kinsey at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland at 423-559-8299 or Jenny Card at 423-902-3402.