By Julie Muhlstein Herald columnist
Amy Roloff and her husband run a pumpkin farm in Oregon. They have four children, the youngest now 17. They’re nothing like the Kardashians, but they are reality TV stars.
“We are definitely recognized. Everywhere I go, I’m stopped — the airport, the grocery store. I’m taken aback by that, but I’m still Amy,” said Roloff, the wife and mother on TLC’s “Little People, Big World.”
Roloff, 51, will be in Everett next month as the featured speaker at the YMCA of Snohomish County’s Community Prayer Breakfast. The 54th annual Good Friday event is scheduled for 7 a.m. April 18 in the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Comcast Arena.
“Little People, Big World,” which began airing on TLC in 2006, has helped educate people about dwarfism by showing the Roloffs’ day-to-day work, play and family life. Amy Roloff and her husband, Matt, and one of their twin sons, Zach, are affected by dwarfism. Other members of their family are not “little people,” as those with dwarfism sometimes call themselves.
At the prayer breakfast, Roloff will speak on the topic “What Is Your Armor?” Her talk will consider tools that help people through life’s challenges, and help sustain individuals and communities through different stages.
“I’m hoping the message will be of hope,” she said. “We go through our darkest moments, but do not ever give up on hope.”
Roloff, who grew up in Michigan, said her Christian faith has been the “number one” influence in her life. “I try to be the best Christian role model I can be. I’m not perfect,” she said. “Doing the television show, my faith has kept me focused.”
From the family’s 34-acre farm in Helvetia, Ore., near Portland, Roloff said Tuesday that she often talks a bit about dwarfism in speaking engagements. “Matt has a different type of dwarfism, and more physical challenges,” she said.
“In my world, I count on my faith, which helps me deal with it on an everyday basis. I never know how people are viewing me. It’s more ‘How do you view yourself?’”
Longtime viewers have watched the Roloff children grow up. “This has been a big chunk of our family’s life,” Roloff said. The 23-year-old twins, Zach and Jeremy, are in college, as is 20-year-old Molly. Only Jacob, 17, is still at home.
According to the Roloff family’s website, last season’s “Little People, Big World” finale may have left viewers with “concerns about the state of Matt and Amy Roloff’s marriage, or if they decided to sell the farm.”
Amy Roloff said Tuesday they are still under contract and are dong a few more episodes with TLC. “One airing March 25 will be very personal,” she said.
While the family has paid a price in time and privacy, Roloff said “Little People, Big World” has provided great opportunities to help others.
She runs the Amy Roloff Charity Foundation, which supports the Dwarf Athletic Association of America and a number of Portland-area nonprofit groups that help children and cancer patients. “I have a heart for kids. What they’re facing isn’t different from what I faced,” Roloff said. Her husband formed the Coalition for Dwarf Advocacy, which works in areas of medicine, educational and work opportunities, and public accommodation.
Every pumpkin season, the family opens its farm to the public.
“People are amazed. They’ll say ‘We can’t believe you’re out here,’” Roloff said.
If she ever wonders why she said yes to a reality show, Roloff said all it takes for an answer is hearing that her family’s example has helped other people.
“I have to think, ‘Amy, you did this for a reason. Be thankful,’” she said.
She knows that “Little People, Big World” won’t last forever. What is lasting, she said, is the legacy she wants written on her tombstone: “A faithful servant and a good mom.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The YMCA of Snohomish County will hold its annual Community Prayer Breakfast 7-8:30 a.m. April 18 in Comcast Arena’s Edward D. Hansen Conference Center, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Everett. Amy Roloff, featured on TLC’s “Little People, Big World,” is the key speaker. Tickets are $40 per person, $400 for a reserved table for 10 or $480 for a reserved table for 12. For tickets or information go to www.ymca-snoco.org/pb or call 425-374-5769. Reservation deadline is April 4.