That day I emailed Oprah to tell her how much Zoë and I enjoyed Julia's story and that we would like to paint a mural for her. (You can read my email here.) Well, almost six months had passed since I wrote the email when one day in the middle of March 2001 I came home to find a message from Heather, one of Oprah's producers, on my answering machine. Oprah and her producers were planning a surprise for Julia and they wanted us to be a part of it! I immediately called Zoë and said, "you aren't going to believe who called?!?".
The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind… Everything moves very fast at Oprah! There were many calls and emails exchanged, samples of previous work were sent out, and a proposed sketch of the mural was mailed. By the end of March, Zoë and I were taking the road trip to Racine that we had talked about six months earlier…
Zoë and I drove ten hours (we drove so that we would have all of our painting supplies and ladders) from Buffalo, NY to Racine, WI. The Oprah show had whisked Julia off to Chicago under the guise of filming an "update show" – she had no idea we were coming. Since it was a surprise, we only had two days to paint a mural from floor to ceiling across two walls of the reading center's reception area. On Tuesday (3-27) we painted from 9am to 11pm. On Wednesday (3-28) we painted from 8am until 6am the following morning! We were fueled by adrenaline, delicious food provided by other volunteers, and the excitement of knowing that we were part of an amazing project! We had a couple of hours on Thursday (3-29) to return to the hotel, rest, and get freshened up before we had to head back to the reading center for more filming and interviews.