3. David and Connor O'Leary Win The Amazing Race
Competing on The Amazing Race was a dream come true for Connor O’Leary and his father, Dave. The father-son team were strong competitors after they first beat Dave’s prostate cancer and Connor’s testicular cancer. “From the outset,” says Connor, “we wanted to race, hold our integrity, and show our true character, which is what you do in everyday life.” But theirs was a dream cut short. Like their LDS predecessors on the show (Lena and Kristy Jensen, who were eliminated early in Race 6 in a challenge that came down to luck), the O’Learys also went home early after Dave tore his Achilles tendon in Leg 2. “That,” Dave says, “at least mentally, put an end to the Amazing Race for us.”
Though the pair did continue for another two legs with Dave on crutches, they were forced to withdraw at the start of Leg 5 so that Dave could get surgery to repair the injury. It seemed their brief Amazing Race dream was over until about a year later, when the phone rang. Dave recalls, “A Race representative started asking me how my Achilles was and how my rehab went. I thought, ‘Boy, this is really nice! They care enough about me to check in and see how I’m doing!’” But the conversation took a turn. “Then the questions got a lot more specific, and the guy who I was speaking with said, ‘Do you have a sense of where this is going?’ And I said, ‘Yes, and we’re in!’”
Just like that, the father-son team was back on the show, one year older and wiser, too. And this time, they wouldn’t have to withdraw. This time, they would win leg after leg and prizes like trips around the world and a 2015 Mustang for each of them. And these two cancer survivors would even make it all the way to the end and claim the $1 million prize.
“For me,” shares Dave, “it was the most satisfying moment of my life to be able to be there with my son, recognizing what he has gone through from a health standpoint. To be on that mat was truly surreal.” Connor adds, “It was an amazing experience to be able to win with my dad and to be the first parent-child team to win was pretty special.”
In fact, in their record-setting run, in addition to being the first parent-child duo to win, the O’Learys also became the first Utahan and Mormon winners. At age 59, Dave was also the oldest winner ever with Connor, age 22, tied for the youngest winner ever. They split the prize money from the show, which they plan to invest and donate to cancer research. Reflecting on their roller coaster experience, Dave reveals, “I never really believed we could get there. I didn’t! I thought, we’ll give it our best shot. We’ll have fun in the process.” He adds, “We recognize it’s a game. We recognize it’s not life. But it was a pretty fun thing to do!”
► Read more about the O'Learys in 18 Mormons on Reality TV Who Stood for Their Standards
4. Madilyn Paige Voice Battles with Tanner James
It wasn’t until season six of NBC’s The Voice, which aired in early 2014, that an LDS singer made a mark on the show. Madilyn Paige sang her heart out for the judges and was the first Latter-day Saint to make it all the way through to the playoff round before being eliminated.
Recalling her experience, she shares, “A lot of the contestants smoked and drank, and I decided not to participate in that. Also, I had to let the wardrobe people know my standards and what I would or would not wear. And luckily, they were really understanding, but I definitely had to set my boundaries.”
Here is the incredible moment when she sang “Everything Has Changed,” by Taylor Swift in the voice battle with Tanner James:
This stunning self-titled debut EP features a set of tunes notable for their raw emotion and beautiful soundscapes. Madilyn wrote or co-wrote every song on the album, drawing from her own struggles as a teenager and her heartfelt expressions of the joy she finds in life. The first track, "Irreplaceable," begins with aching introspection and soars to an assurance of self-worth; the following track, "Foolish Game," was written right after Madilyn left the TV show The Voice and gives insight into the inevitability of discouragement in life and the realization that you can rise above the games that people play. An epic movie score string section combines with powerful rhythms on "Undercover," a breathtaking song about overcoming sadness and seeking the light all around you. The final track, "Little Things," playfully reminds us that the little things in life are the source of true joy. Available at Deseret Book stores or on deseretbook.com.
5. Lindsey Stirling Original and Comeback Performances on America’s Got Talent
Lindsey Stirling made her debut on the show America’s Got Talent in 2010. Stirling, who was voted off the show in the quarterfinals, quickly turned any disappointment into determination to improve. She has since found phenomenal success thanks to YouTube and continues to thrive, giving sold-out shows around the world. She was invited back as a special musical guest during the 2014 season where she performed “Shatter Me,” a song from her recent album.
Here are those two performances: