Debbe Magnusen's Project Cuddle saves babies' lives.

When Oprah walks out onto the stage at Harpo Studios every day, hundreds of people cheer and applaud. Now she wants to pass that amazing feeling on to people who deserve to be recognized for all they do to help others. "I'm doing something I've always wanted to do," Oprah says. "I say this all the time: 'I want to one day show up where people live and work to give them the same standing ovation that [the audience] just gave me.'"

The first cheer goes to Debbe Magnusen, a suburban mother who found her calling when she read an article about an abandoned baby found dead in her community. To help save other babies, Debbe founded Project Cuddle, a hotline for pregnant women in trouble who need help raising their babies or finding adoptive families.

In the 10 years since she started Project Cuddle at her kitchen table, Debbe has helped save more than 570 lives! "I don't think she has any idea how many lives she has changed permanently for the better," says Elizabeth, an adoptive mother that Debbe has helped. "She is here for a reason. She is an absolute gift."
John Stamos helps keep Debbe's surprise a secret.

ER star John Stamos—the national spokesperson for Project Cuddle—goes to Debbe's house in a limo to pick her up for a big surprise. "It's a good thing I play a fake doctor on TV. She's going to faint," John says.

When John knocks on her door, Debbe is so excited and nervous she almost starts crying. "What are you doing here?" she says.

"I can't tell you why I'm here because I have strict orders, but I'm taking you to a secret location," John says. "You have 10 minutes to get ready, and I'm going to whisk you away in a limo."

During the ride, the limousine's windows are covered so Debbe can't peek—and she has no idea where they are headed. "This is so silly! I'm in a limo, blacked-out windows, with John Stamos plugging my ears," Debbe says.
Oprah gives Debbe a big 'Cheers to you!'

The limo finally comes to a stop, and Debbe has no clue where she is. As the door opens, Debbe gets a big surprise when she sees Oprah's face! Hundreds of people whose lives have been touched by Project Cuddle have gathered at Disneyland to thank her. "We brought you here to say, 'Cheers to you,' because we wanted to applaud all the truly amazing miracles you've created for families," Oprah says.

Some of the families want to tell Debbe thank you for everything she has done for them. "How do you describe somebody who makes impossible dreams come true?" says Quinn, an adoptive mother helped by Debbe. "If it weren't for Debbe, there would be a lot of desperate birth families out there and a lot of very empty adoptive families."

The very first baby Debbe helped, Sabrina, is now 10 years old. "Thank you for helping us, bringing us together, helping our dreams come true," says Kia, Sabrina's adoptive mother. Another family eager to honor Debbe is much newer—Patrick and Jennifer just adopted their baby, Grace. "I just wanted to thank you for giving us the blessing of a daughter and for making us a family," Jennifer says. "This is a dream come true."

As part of the celebration of Debbe's hard work, Disney treats her and all the families she has helped to a day of fun at Disneyland, guided by Mickey, Minnie and their friends!
Debbe and Oprah

Debbe says her celebration at Disneyland with the families was the best day of her life. "All those years of such hard work, sometimes feeling alone, and other days rejoicing with a family and watching a baby [become] safe—and you brought all of us together for a huge party," Debbe says. "It was incredible. I will never forget it, and it will get me through those hard days."

In honor of Debbe's tireless devotion to saving lives, Johnson's® Baby is giving her a VIP card—which means each of her new mothers for the next five years will receive free Johnson's baby products! will also give each new family baby gear and a glider to help rock the precious newborns to sleep.
Karen says she first thought about becoming a doctor in high school.

This mother of five proves that it's never too late to make your dreams come true. Karen first thought about becoming a doctor when she was in high school. "My grandmother was ill and I remember being so in awe of the doctors that were taking care of her," she says.

At 16, Karen's plans took a sudden turn when she became pregnant with her oldest daughter. She managed to stay in school and earn her diploma, but her hopes for a medical career were put on hold. "I was supposed to be the first one to go to college. I felt like I let everyone down," Karen says. "I was devastated, and it devastated my family as well."

By age 29, Karen had five children and a husband who didn't support her college dreams. "He didn't think that we had the time or the money," Karen says. "I finally realized that he was never going to say it was the time. I enrolled without telling him."

Karen eventually left her husband and decided to pursue a nursing career. "I realized there was no way I was going to get into medical school with five kids," she says.
Karen was accepted to the Yale School of Medicine.

For the next four years, Karen juggled jobs, motherhood and school. "I was always working two and three different jobs," she says. "One of my biggest fears is that by me going after this goal, I would neglect them so I always made sure that I was at all their school functions and I'd check their homework and I'd make sure that their clothes were out for the next day, and we would sit down and we'd do homework together."

Karen eventually became a nurse and a grandmother, but a little voice inside told her she could have more. "I finally had to admit to myself that I still wanted to be a doctor," she says. "I could not bring myself to say it out loud to anyone. I was just so afraid that people would think I was crazy."

Quietly, she began applying to medical schools. "I remember filling out every application and thinking, 'They're just going to laugh this application off their desk,'" she says.

Not only did they not laugh, but Karen became the first grandmother ever to enter the Yale School of Medicine! "It just blew me away. When I was dreaming, I don't think I had dreamt this big," she says.
Karen is surprised to receive a video message from Oprah.

With graduation approaching, Oprah dispatches her "Cheers to You" team to Yale's Ivy League halls. Karen and her classmates think they've been called to a lecture hall for an important graduation meeting. What they don't know is that the announcement is really about Karen.

A video is cued up and Oprah appears on the screen! "Here on The Oprah Show we're doing a show called 'Cheers to You.' I just happened to hear about a remarkable person in your class," Oprah says. "Will Karen Morris please stand up?"

With Karen's classmates cheering, Oprah continues. "Your classmates say your enthusiasm and your curiosity and your dedication are an inspiration to all of them," Oprah says. "So I want everyone to stand and join me in giving Karen a big, 'Cheers to you!'"

But that's not all… "And one more thing, Karen. I want you to pack your bags because you're coming to The Oprah Show!"
Karen's family surprises her at 'The Oprah Winfrey Show.'

Karen doesn't know it, but her whole family flew to Chicago to give her a cheer on The Oprah Show! "She's a wonderful woman," says Karen's oldest daughter, Nikki. "Growing up with her, she just inspired all of us."

Karen also has a new man in her life—her husband, William, who married her, school loans and all. "I'll be a senior citizen when I pay it off, but that's okay," Karen says. "He married me anyway!" The good news is that Karen won't have to worry about school loans anymore—thanks to AMBI Skin Care, Karen's school debts will be wiped clean!
Christian, Ronn, Renee and Kaitlyn

It's been seven months since Kaitlyn, Christian and Renee have been able to give their mom a hug. That's because their mom, Cheyenne, serves aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Eisenhower, stationed in the Persian Gulf. "I cry a lot because I miss Mommy," Kaitlyn says.

In Cheyenne's absence, her husband, Ronn, holds down the fort. "I think Christmastime was the toughest time for them because my wife is really big on tradition and Christmas, so they're used to putting the tree up with Mom, doing the shopping," Ronn says. "They didn't want to put up a tree this year. They didn't want to have anything to do with Christmas because Mom wasn't here."

Although Cheyenne is 6,000 miles away, a special program brings her home every time her kids play a DVD. United Through Reading allows military moms and dads to record themselves reading bedtime stories on DVDs and to mail them home.

Ronn says the kids run to the mailbox every day looking for messages from their mommy, which come about every two or three weeks. "When they're having their down days, they can go in and pop in a DVD and there's Mom," Ronn says. "It's not so much just reading the books, but it's the personal feel because she sends a little greeting. She talks to them like she's sitting in front of them and she sends me a message here and there so I don't feel left out."
Cheyenne is reunited with her family.

Ronn, who says he sometimes watches the DVDs after the kids have gone to bed just to see his wife, says he's looking forward to having Cheyenne come home. "I'm treading water till Mom gets home," he says. "I think we've missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, all of our birthdays, anniversaries…so it's been a long deployment. It's been tough, but we've been all right."

The kids also have big plans for their mom when they finally see her. "I'm going to hug her and then tickle her," Christian says.

Thanks to a special surprise, this family won't have to wait much longer! "Kaitlyn, Christian, Renee, I have some news for you," Oprah says. "Your mom is going to be home just in time for Mother's Day. Come out, Cheyenne!"

Now that she's home safe and sound, Cheyenne says her kids have grown up so much since she's been gone. "Especially my babies. I'm just…I'm shocked," she says. "It's all still very surreal to me."
Charlie was diagnosed with leukemia at 19 months.

Oprah couldn't do a "cheers to you" show without saluting nurses! Two years ago, Mark and Chrissy received the worst news of their lives. Doctors diagnosed their 19-month-old son, Charlie, with leukemia. "To find out that it was cancer, it was shocking and so scary," Chrissy says. "We didn't say it out loud, but we were afraid he would die."

The chemotherapy and steroids used to fight the disease ravaged Charlie's fragile body and caused him to gain weight.

Charlie had his own set of guardian angels—Katie, Lauren, Kelly, Maureen, Jeri and Stephanie. They are the dedicated nurses who run the cancer clinic at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital. As pediatric oncology nurses, every day brings heartache and joy. The hours are long, the emotions run high and every family of every little patient is desperate for hope. "They're the best at what they do. I trust them completely with the care of my son," Chrissy says.

The extra TLC the nurses give Charlie puts him at ease, and it means everything to Mark and Chrissy. "Our kids are the most important things in our lives and the way they're cared for is so important to us," Chrissy says. "We just appreciate that they treat Charlie as well as we treat Charlie."
Oprah surprises Charlie's nurses at Children's Memorial Hospital.

A special thanks was in order for Charlie's angels, so Oprah got in a car and headed to the hospital to thank them in person. Katie, Lauren, Kelly, Maureen, Jeri and Stephanie are sitting in the cafeteria, thinking that Charlie's family is stopping by to say hello. Little do they know Oprah is hiding out nearby! "Paging nurses from the fourth floor oncology clinic," Oprah says as she walks into the cafeteria to find the stunned group.

She reads them part of the e-mail that Chrissy wrote. "We could not have gotten through this difficult time without the support and love of the staff at Children's Memorial. … These nurses really are our angels."

Because these women spend their lives taking care of others, Oprah wants them to receive some TLC. At the end of the day, a limousine is waiting to take Charlie's nurses to Bliss Spa.
Charlie surprises his nurses.

The hardworking nurses relax during a luxurious evening of manicures, pedicures, body rubs and facials at Bliss Spa. "I feel like a queen for the day!" Maureen says.

After their night of pampering, Katie, Lauren, Stephanie, Kelly, Maureen and Jeri come to The Oprah Show. And they have a very special visitor—little Charlie is here to say thank you!
FROM: A Cheers to You Extravaganza!
Published on January 01, 2006


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