For Immediate Release — May 3, 2004


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516



GENESEO, N.Y. — Kathy Whipple, a 2003 graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo, is one of 16 finalists in a new ABC reality TV show titled The Benefactor set to air this summer.

Whipple, who grew up in Webster, took a leave from New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y., to take part in the show, her mother confirmed. Whipple, the daughter of Robert and Rosemary Whipple of Webster, is a 1999 graduate of Webster High School.

A biochemistry major at Geneseo, the 23-year-old soon-to-be-TV star also played on the college’s softball team for four years. She tried out for the show on a "fluke" while she and her mother were in Las Vegas for a spring break of sorts — getaway for Kathy, in her first year of medical school, and Rosemary, a Rochester nurse, said Rosemary Whipple.

After the mother-daughter team booked their plane tickets to Las Vegas, they heard the news that a new reality TV show was holding auditions in Las Vegas on April 3 — when they would be in town — at a nearby hotel, Rosemary Whipple said.

Intrigued at the news that dotcom billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, would give away $1 million to one of the contestants on The Benefactor, they decided to check out the auditions if they could make it there on time.

"We weren’t even sure we’d make it over there," Rosemary Whipple said. "While we were there, we just thought we’d see if they were still there."

While waiting in line, in which they were No. 287 out of about 300 to 500 people, the Whipples enjoyed chatting with the other folks, so they decided to wait it out. The audition lasted all of a few minutes and consisted of Kathy talking for a few minutes on videotape.

Whipple beat at least thousands of candidates to make the show. Open auditions also were held in Idaho, Massachusetts, Georgia and Texas, and people also sent in audition tapes.

Now, Kathy is in Dallas on location, Rosemary Whipple said. Filming is expected to take three weeks, and she didn’t know if filming would change locales. The six-episode series is expected to be broadcast in late summer. The series will aim to answer, "what would you do for a million dollars?" ABC and Cuban have not released details about the show other than it will have a sense of fun and adventure. ABC did not return calls for comment.

ABC announced plans for the show in February, on the heels of Donald Trump’s successful Apprentice, in which Trump awarded one person a job for a year at a salary of $250,000. Cuban co-founded and sold it with his business partner to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion at the height of the Internet boom in 1999, according to the Mavericks’ Web site. In January 2000, he bought the Mavericks franchise and brought a party atmosphere to the games, and helped lead the team to the playoffs.

Cuban stated in the network’s press release: "Everyone has dreamed of getting rich, and I want to help one lucky person get there. This isn’t a traditional contest. You don’t need special talents. I’m not looking to find out who is the grossest, funniest, prettiest, smartest, or able to go without food or water the longest. The right person is going to get on my good side at the right time and, whoever that is, is going to walk away with a check for one million dollars."

The Geneseo community is rallying around its scholar athlete. Tony Ciccarello, head coach of the Geneseo women’s softball team, not only coached Whipple two years on the Geneseo Knights, but also two years on the Webster High Warriors.

Ciccarello recalled a road trip during Whipple’s junior year. When he checked to see how the players on the back of the bus were doing, he noticed Whipple was studying for her medical school exams — taking advantage of every spare moment she had.

"She was very detail oriented, even on the field. She really worked hard, gave it everything she had," Ciccarello said.

"She’ll go at it a hundred percent. She did everything to win," he said, adding that Whipple is a likeable and focused young woman.

Ciccarello also coached Whipple’s sister, Elizabeth, at Webster. Elizabeth Whipple graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 1999.

Ciccarello said his approach toward coaching is to provide his players life lessons and to prepare them for the harsh realities of the world.

"Nobody’s going to make a million dollars from playing softball," he said.

But perhaps Ciccarello’s coaching style will help Whipple win exactly that.

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