Bopper and Mark overwhelmed by outpouring of support since ‘The Amazing Race’
Despite Mark suffering from heat stroke and he and his partner Bopper being more than three and a half hours behind all the other teams, the two friends from Kentucky gave everything they had to stay in “The Amazing Race” – something that endeared them even more to their many fans.
The morning after their elimination episode aired, Mark had 750 comments on his Facebook page and 250 friend requests, and Bopper says the people in their hometown of Clay County have been ecstatic.
“(Everyone) in the state of Kentucky is so proud of us. The feedback I’ve got from reading the blogs and stuff, the world, their hearts went out to me and Mark,” Bopper tells CTV.ca over the phone.
“You have little children running up to you like you’re some big movie star or something and saying, ‘I’m your biggest fan’ . . . when you get to see a child’s eyes light up, when they look at you, you can’t put money on something like that.”
The team ran into trouble on the previous leg in India when Mark was faced with learning a Bollywood dance as part of a Roadblock challenge.
Already feeling ill when they arrived at the challenge, learning the difficult steps in the blazing sun was almost too much for him to bear.
“It was as difficult as it looked. It was just unbelievable how hard it was,” says Mark, a former state inspector.
Noticing that his partner was struggling, Bopper, a motorcycle mechanic, tried to convince him to take a time penalty and not do the challenge.
“It was my idea because I was truly concerned about Mark’s well-being and it was just so hard for me to sit and watch him onstage struggle. He had gotten so hot and I knew at that time there was nothing else in him to give,” says Bopper.
“That’s when I went and told him I loved him and let’s just take the penalty.”
But Mark soldiered on and after 12 tries and more than three and a half hours, he finally completed the challenge. When they finally arrived at the Pit Stop hours after the other teams, they were relieved to hear it was a non-elimination leg and they were still in the “Race.”
After checking in, Mark was immediately attended to by medical staff and put on an I.V.
He did not feel much better the next morning but the two decided to continue with the “Race” anyway.
“Mark was still slurring (his words). He was still not 100 per cent but he was willing to do what we had to do,” says Bopper.
“We knew we were three hours behind and we had our work cut out for us so the most we could do was have fun, enjoy it and when we saw that Fast Forward, we said, ‘Man, we’ve got a shot at staying in this Race.’”
Even though they willingly shaved their heads at the Fast Forward in order to bypass all the other challenges, they still finished the leg behind all the other teams and this time, were eliminated.
It was disappointing news for the two friends, who were hoping to win the $1 million prize to help out their families.
Bopper explains that he lives right beside a coal processing plant and his eight-year-old daughter has suffered from respiratory problems since she’s been six months old.
“My main goal in winning the money was to relocate my family to a cleaner, healthier environment so every time I thought I was down and out and I couldn’t go any further, I would just picture my child on a breathing machine and I would just dig deep and keep going.”
Mark also needed the money to take care of his family and says the situation went from bad to worse when he returned home from the “Race” to find out he had been let go from his job.
“I’ve always said you’ve got to play the cards of the hand you’re dealt in life and I guess things happen for a reason,” he says.
“You never know what the good Lord holds for you tomorrow . . . I know something good will come out of something bad,” adds Bopper, even though he admits jobs like the one Mark had in the department of agriculture are hard to come by.
“You’ve got very few options. You’ve either got the coal mines to work in or you (can) flip burgers at a fast food restaurant, and that’s it. There are no jobs where we live.”
But the two friends say they are open to whatever opportunities come their way and are just grateful for the chance to run the “Race” together and see the world.
“It just changed our whole perspective on life. We ain’t got nothing and we saw people that really ain’t got nothing,” says Mark. “We’ve got a roof over our head and lights and water. Some people didn’t even have that so we appreciated (what we do have).”
Don’t miss the shocking Season 20 finale Sunday, May 6 at 8/7C on CTV. Full episodes are also available online at CTV.ca.
About Sheri Block
Sheri Block has been covering entertainment for CTV.ca since 2008. In addition to covering Will and Kate’s Royal Wedding in London, Sheri’s highlights have included going on tour with “Canadian Idol,” being a stand-in on “Canada’s Next Top Model” and meeting Colin Farrell at the Toronto International Film Festival.Follow her on Twitter!