Waiting offstage, Marcy Rogers didn't hear how Montel Williams introduced the segment on Payson Community Kids or what footage accompanied it, but it must have been good.
"As we walked onstage, the audience was cheering and loving us and smiling," Rogers said. "There were several monitors and a lot of things were going on. Montel was dressed like I've never seen him dress -- just beautiful -- and there was Santa with a bunch of toys around him."
It was a whirlwind trip to New York City for the trio from Payson who made their television debut on the "Montel Williams Show." Rogers, founder of Payson Community Kids; 11-year-old Stephanie, the first child to benefit from the program; and Susan Gerard, a Gila County juvenile probation officer who teaches in the program, will appear on Williams' show Dec. 24.
"The whole thing was so overwhelming," Rogers said. "Time was so limited. We barely slept four or five hours."
The threesome left Wednesday morning and returned to Payson Friday evening. Rogers says they packed as much as they could into their trip, even with the 13-hour trip to New York City and losing Rogers' luggage.
By the time they finally got to the Edison Hotel in Times Square, they went straight to bed. It's a good thing, because they would spend the better part of Thursday taping the show.
"We were there for so long, and we were so tired from being made up over and over," Rogers said. "They'd feed you, then they'd fix your lips. They kept saying they need to pop out my eyes."
Then, a last-minute snag almost kept Stephanie off the show.
"This lady from the show required more paperwork -- a proof of guardianship," Rogers said. "Luckily at the last minute, I had gotten guardianship for the trip."
Payson Community Kids is a non-profit organization founded by Rogers that provides counseling, after school activities and other programs for children with special needs. The organization, which currently serves 50 to 60 children, caught the attention of the show's producers via a Roundup article on the internet.
Along with their 15 minutes of fame, the threesome brought home a total of $22,759.99 worth of gifts for Payson Community Kids, including a computer, $3,000 worth of gift cards for KB Toy Store; a $750 gift certificate to the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa; and a 2005 Hyundai Tucson sport utility vehicle.
"There was a man in the audience and I knew he had something to do (with it) because he had this big glow around him," Rogers said. "I just kept looking at him like what is that man going to do, and then they introduced him and he was the man from Hyundai."
The segment concluded with the ladies climbing into the new car, and Stephanie telling Williams that she and the others think of Rogers as a second mother who has always been there for them.
"They had the cameras follow us out back to the alley, and of course there were tears streaming down Stephanie's face," Rogers said.
Two other inspiring, yet painful stories join the Payson Community Kids segment this Friday.
"It's us, then it's this soldier's family where the mother and father both serve and they had their little children, and then it will be a memorial to his friend John (who worked with Williams for 11 years and recently died at the age of 36). I think it's going to be an emotional, beautiful show."
Rogers, after receiving her generous donation, worked the same magic in New York City that she does in Payson. She recalls the excitement of finishing their segment. The trio returned to the waiting area.
"We came back just bouncing-off-the-wall-happy and here is this family waiting to do the third segment -- the memorial to the 36-year-old who was their father, son and husband," Rogers said. "There was a boy about 14 and like an 11-year-old girl, and their heads were down, so we gave them $500 out of our $3,000 for KB Toys."
With so much time devoted to the production, the trio had only a short afternoon to see the sights. Although plans to visit the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 memorial were scrapped, they did get to the Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan, and New York City's street life left a lasting impression.
"We got to see everything along the streets, how packed the streets are, Times Square, a wonderful church," Rogers said. "We got to go out to dinner twice. We went to a French restaurant."
And then, back to the hotel where other experiences waited.
"At first we thought this was like the '40s," Rogers said. "It was kind of an old hotel, but I actually miss it already. I got really fond of that place, even though they don't have things like drinking fountains and ice. We needed to be a little bit New York savvy."
It was Stephanie, the youngest, who became the most "New York savvy."
"Stephanie in New York should be a movie," Rogers said. "She was so wonderful. She would actually tell us, ‘We've been down this block before; we're going the wrong way.'"
In fact, Stephanie mastered the ultimate New York art form -- hailing a taxi.
"We were not aggressive enough," Gerard said. "You have to jump off the curb and really get their attention, and she became really good at it. She knows how to hail a cab now."
Stephanie, who said the plane ride was her favorite part of the trip, made it sound simple.
"You just stick out your hand and say, ‘Taxi,'" she said.
Rogers, upon her return to Payson, was reminded of the challenges and heartbreaks of her charitable undertakings.
"(Sunday), five kids took me aside at church and had their mother tell me their father is in jail," Rogers said. "So five kids with dad in jail for Christmas. It goes on and on."
But Rogers has learned to keep things in perspective.
"It's a program where if you ride the lows and highs you have a hard time," she said. "You have to try and stay in the middle. Of course, that's hard to do when there are children you love in pain, and it's hard to do when you fly to New York and they just kept bringing out more exciting stuff."
Stephanie, however, is still flying high.
"It was so great, and I'm so happy she chose me to go," she said. "I would love to live there. I would love to."
In her short life, Stephanie has proven she's a survivor, a trait she captured when she said, "It's just hard to live there, and that's me."
When to watch
The "Montel Williams Show" featuring Marcy Rogers, Susan Gerard and original Payson Community Kid, Stephanie, will air on Channel 10 (Fox) at 9 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 24. The
1 p.m. rerun will be pre-empted by an NFL game.