Local woman plays on 'Wheel of Fortune'

Pam Lavene will donate prize to church's building campaign

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Pam Lavene, of Highlands Ranch, isn't an avid “Wheel of Fortune” watcher.

But last December she was offered a spot on the game show and took it. She won $10,500, which she will donate to her church.

“Going on the show, I thought, `Please don't make me look foolish,'” she said. “I didn't want to be in some viral video.”

Lavene's son-in-law, Chris Canter, is the opposite. He's had a lifelong goal to make it on the show.

“I dreamt of spinning the wheel since I was a child,” Canter, 32, said.

Canter applied for “Wheel of Fortune” last year and was asked to audition in downtown Denver. He could bring a family member to compete as a team, so he brought Lavene.

Producers didn't accept Canter and Lavene as a team because they aren't biologically related. But the two left a lasting impression and were separately given spots on the show.

Lavene, 55, filmed her episode Dec. 18 in Culver City, Calif. It was set to air April 4 on CBS.

Canter was to film his episode in early April.

The game show first aired in 1983 with hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Three contestants vie for prizes by spinning a wheel and picking a letter — similar to the “Hangman” guessing game. Contestants win cash or an expense-free trip to an exotic destination.

The show's jovial atmosphere surprised Lavene.

“It was almost like a party of people who just enjoy each other,” she said.

Most contestants had a lifelong dream to be on the show, Lavene said, and watched it religiously. They were average, everyday people from college students to seniors.

Lavene, an insurance salesperson, was nervous thinking about all the people who would see her on TV. Producers reminded her to relax and provided tips, such as enunciating and projecting her voice.

She was most surprised at how heavy the wheel was.

“The wheel is 1,000 pounds. Most people think you just spin it,” she said. “You have to pull it and shove it.”

After seven or eight guessing games of words including “Waldorf salad,” Lavene left with $10,500.

The money, she said, is essentially free so she's going to donate it to Journey Church, off County Line Road and South Holly Street. The church's current location is too small. Members are raising money through a building campaign to build a 350-person location in Lone Tree near Interstate 25 and RidgeGate Parkway.

Lavene's decision was easy:

“I won some money that I didn't earn or even expect,” she said. “It's Gods money — lets use it to build a church.”

Lavene, who calls herself more of an introverted person, is happy with her experience but doesn't plan on any other TV appearances. She advises people interested in “Wheel of Fortune” to apply. The show's staff couldn't be greater, she said.

“It feels like you are competing with one another — not against,” she said.

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