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Ebersol family to join Oprah Winfrey on show

Mary Kate Malone | Thursday, February 2, 2006

Recent Notre Dame graduate Charlie Ebersol will appear with his family on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” this afternoon to tell the story of the November 2004 plane crash that killed his little brother.

This is the first time the well-known family has spoken publicly together about the tragedy. Ebersol, his father NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, his mother actress Susan Saint James and his younger brother Willie Ebersol taped the episode on Jan. 11 at Harpo Studios in Chicago.

Ebersol lost his 14-year-old brother Teddy when a private plane crashed on takeoff at Montrose Regional Airport in Colorado on Nov. 28, 2004. Charlie and Dick Ebersol escaped from the wreckage, but Teddy was killed on impact. Saint James was not on the plane.

“After a year absorbing this horrible thing that happened to us, it’s an opportunity to offer our experience and maybe in some way help people who have gone through that experience,” Ebersol said.

Ebersol taped two episodes with Winfrey. The first focuses on the plane crash and its aftermath; the second – to be aired sometime later this month – spotlights the award-winning movie Ebersol co-produced with his best friend during his junior year at Notre Dame. The documentary film, titled “Ithuteng [never stop learning],” follows three children at a school for at-risk students in Soweto, South Africa. Winfrey donated $1.14 million to the school featured in the film, Ithuteng Trust, after watching Ebersol’s movie earlier this year.

Ebersol said he created the film – which will air on HBO in September – to tell the inspiring story of the troubled children at Ithuteng Trust, a school that takes in students who are rapists, murderers, car thieves or rape victims. Run by one woman, the school has more than 6,500 students and is the only school on the continent of Africa with a 100 percent graduation and retention rate, Ebersol said.

“I think one of the things we wanted to show was … horrible things happen in your life, but you have to experience [them],” he said. “This is an opportunity to share that with other people. Obviously there is no bigger pedestal on earth to say that from than the Oprah show.”

Ebersol said Winfrey was “very respectful” of his family’s feelings as they shared their story about the plane crash.

“[Oprah] really is amazing,” Ebersol said. “Without really knowing us, she is able to relate with people and really ask the questions that are on your mind … it was a blessing to have done this with her because she asks questions to help people that have experienced similar losses.”

“The Oprah Winfrey Show” airs weekdays at 4 p.m. on WSBT Channel 22.