She may have braved the island with her tough exterior and outdoor skills, but soft-hearted Twila Tanner is now involved with an entirely new kind of survivor.
Tanner, 50, is known for being the first runner-up during the 2004 season of “Survivor: Vanuatu,” but she has now focused her attention to “Give Kids the World,” a national charity that grants the last wishes of children who have terminal illnesses. Her focus is on its Florida-based programs.
She moved to Bunnell two years ago and now works for the city of Palm Coast on a swale crew, where she spends her time working outdoors.
But before she came down South, she made her way in the Midwest.
Tanner was born in Osceola, Iowa, where she lived for 14 years She then relocated to Marshall, Mo.
One night, she was surfing television channels and discovered “Survivor.” She was hooked.
“I was always telling my friends: ‘One day you’ll see me on that because I can do that,’” she said.
She later heard about “Survivor” auditions from a radio station and then produced a three-minute audition tape. She was chosen to be on the show after her first audition.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “But it was tough.”
Tanner said that cameras were running 24 hours a day, but after a few days she got used to being recorded.
She said that the most challenging part of being on the show was adjusting to working with women, because all her life she had worked with men.
She later explained that her favorite part of the show was when her son took part in a challenge alongside her.
She has been asked to come back on the show, and she said she would love to experience “Survivor” again.
Her competition-show stint soon led to other TV appearances, such as on “Fear Factor” and “The View.”
Soon after, she was asked to support charities. After moving to Florida, in 2011 she discovered “Give Kids the World” and has since been in love with the foundation. When she is not working, she is focused on the organization.
The charity works to make the desires of children with life-threatening illnesses come true. Tanner is participating in the fifth-annual “Hearts of Reality” event, which takes place in Celebration. There, the kids and their families are able to vacation near Disney World.
Tanner described herself as having a soft heart, and she is intrigued by anything having to do with children. “They’re the innocent ones in the world,” she said. “Anytime you can bring a smile to a child’s face makes it worthwhile to me.”
Tanner said children’s wishes, which could be something like meeting Mickey Mouse, are granted through this organization. Her main goals include fundraising and garnering donations to financially support the event. She would like to raise about $5,000 for her cause.
“Give what you can,” she said. “I know times are hard for people, but just have a little empathy.”
To donate, visit www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/twila-tanner/hearts-of-reality-2013.