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A playful post on Facebook has earned Liz D’Onofrio, a 2010 alumna of St. Bonaventure University, a trip to Los Angeles next week to appear on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
D’Onofrio was in a stairwell at her internship last fall when DeGeneres, host of the popular daytime talk show, called D’Onofrio’s cell phone and asked her to visit. The conversation took place live on the show in front of a studio audience.
“I was at my internship at The Children’s Room, which is a nonprofit that offers support groups to grieving children and their families,” D’Onofrio said. “I had just finished with a group of parents. I turned my phone on and saw that I had missed a call from L.A. I figured that it was the producer calling but they didn’t leave a voicemail, which made me wonder if it was actually Ellen.”
Two minutes after she had turned her phone back on, a call came again from the same number.
“I had a feeling that this was something big, so I sort of backed myself into a stairwell and answered the phone tentatively. I heard Ellen say, ‘Liz?’ I said, ‘Yes?’ She said, ‘Hey, do you know who this is?’ At that point, I sort of knew because her voice is really unmistakable. But I was in total shock, so I said I didn’t know. When she said it was Ellen DeGeneres, I heard an audience laughing and clapping in the background, and that’s when I realized that she was calling me live from a taping of the show.”
D’Onofrio elaborated, explaining how it all began.
“Back in July, I was sitting in the (Boston College) library when I received a call from an unknown number,” she said. “For some reason, it made me think about how Ellen sometimes ‘cold calls’ people who are fans of the show. I knew it wasn’t her, but I updated my Facebook status to say that I really wish she would call me. One of my friends suggested that I send my status to the show, just for kicks – so I did! The show’s website has a page where you can submit funny Facebook statuses or comments that people make, so I just sent in my status and just kind of forgot about it.”
On Oct. 27, D’Onofrio saw that she had a missed call from Los Angeles.
“I didn’t answer it because I don’t know anyone from LA, but I realized that they had been calling me for like three or four days,” she said. “This time, they left a voicemail. It was a woman named Carrie who worked for the show. She wanted me to call her back, and when I did, she said that they received my submission and thought it was sort of unique and funny. They wanted to follow up with me.
“For the next few weeks, I got a few phone calls from Carrie. She basically just interviewed me, learned about what I was doing, where I was living and what I was studying, etc. Then, in November, I got patched through to a producer who asked me some similar questions. They never told me that Ellen would call, only that they would be in touch if they wanted to pursue it further.”
D’Onofrio started contacting her parents, siblings, and friends after receiving the call from DeGeneres.
“It was a very manic and crazy couple of hours because I also put it on Facebook and people were just going nuts,” she said.
D’Onofrio will be flying out to Los Angeles with her friend, Bri — the first person she called about this — on Wednesday, Jan. 22. They will attend the taping on Thursday, Jan. 23. She said the show will most likely air three or four days afterwards.
“It’s been such a surreal and exciting month,” she said. “I never knew that I would ever get a response from my Facebook submission, and I had pretty much forgotten about it until they called me! After I received the call from Ellen, I kept trying to convince myself that it really happened because it felt so unreal.”
D’Onofrio shared her thoughts on how this event has impacted her and what might happen as a result of her appearance on the show.
“I think that I’m happy enough just to have this opportunity to fly out and meet her. If she decides to make a donation to The Children’s Room, it will be an even bigger blessing,” she said.
D’Onofrio can’t say enough good things about DeGeneres.
“I just think it’s cool that someone normal can get the attention of such a major celebrity,” she said. “The great thing about Ellen is that she celebrates the things that normal people do and she affirms people for just being who they are. She’s just so warm, uplifting and encouraging. She shares a message of love and kindness that we don’t get to see that much on TV, so I’m just thrilled to be a part of that message.”
D’Onofrio earned a bachelor’s degree in theology and was a resident assistant while attending the university.
Nichole Gonzalez, executive director of residential living and conduct, said D’Onofrio was a fantastic RA.
“I’m not at all surprised she was picked to be on the show,” Gonzalez said. “She has a magnetic personality and a wonderful sense of humor that I think will serve her well for her appearance. I’m extremely happy for Liz, because I know how excited she is for this visit.”
D’Onofrio is originally from Montrose, N.Y., but now lives outside Boston while attending graduate school at Boston College in pursuit of a dual master’s degree in pastoral ministry and social work.
“I’m hoping to go into grief counseling, specifically with children and families, possibly in a hospice or palliative care setting after graduation — and hopefully stay in the Boston area because it’s such a great city,” she said.
You can view the video clip of Liz’s phone call with DeGeneres at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz2g3tzGZIA.
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