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UVM media students team up with Ellen to surprise a lucky family in South Hero, Vt.

January 28, 2014

UVM media students are accustomed to spreading the word via WRUV-FM, UVMtv and The Vermont Cynic. Last week, however, they went on a brief media blackout to take part in a super-secret segment of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 11.32.57 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 11.32.47 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 11.33.01 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 11.33.04 PMThe UVM student media program helped facilitate the segment, in which six students helped to surprise a South Hero family that Ellen—yeah, we’re on a first-name basis now—had chosen to receive a gaggle of gifts as part of her “Cash at Your Door” segment.

To keep the Jan. 22 surprise gift-giving a surprise,  Ellen’s producers forbade the students saying a word, especially through social media. The students restrained themselves. They got a backstage pass to the proceedings in sub-zero wind-chilly weather, and some even went on-camera to deliver the gift cards. (See the embedded snaps.)

In the field were Melisa Rayvid and Michael Cohen of UVMtv, Sadie Holliday and Maxe Mazelis of WRUV, and Natalie Williams and Cory Dawson of The Vermont Cynic.

“It was a very cool experience but also incredibly cold,” Williams said. “We were in South Hero, by a lake where the weather was well into the negatives.”

Dawson, the Cynic’s video editor, echoed those sentiments:

So here’s my account. We obviously were the people who brought in all their gifts. It was extremely cold. We must have heard everyone from California say “Its 70 in Burbank” at least 20 times. Our manager was this guy named Phil. Great guy, but no sense of direction. We had to call him and redirect him a lot. We even missed the house the first time.

It felt great to give this obviously deserving family all these gifts. The amount of gifts you see on screen wasn’t even a quarter of the gifts that they actually got, there was an entire van full of gifts. We must have been going from the van to the family, back and fourth, for five minutes.

We had Phil describe the process they have every family go through to determine if they’re worthy of these prizes. Very simply, they have a mock telemarketer-type person call and ask them some questions, and from those questions they can discern when they’re usually home and what the situation is with the family. But he said they always say, “It’s a one in a million chance this will happen to you,” when in reality it’s quite a good chance, relatively speaking.

It feels really good to give to these people, who obviously deserved it. The crew from Ellen were all really great, and they all do really want to make these people happy.

Check out the video to see the UVM media crew in action.

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