FARGO -- As the leader of Bell Bank’s Pay It Forward program here, Julie Peterson Klein is accustomed to finding ways to make others happy.
Now, the tables are turned as her own childhood dream comes true.
She and her mother will watch movie stars stroll by on the famed red carpet at tonight’s Oscars in Hollywood. The Oscars Live broadcast will air on ABC beginning at 6 p.m. CDT.
Peterson Klein said she won’t believe it until she sees it.
“I think I’ve been in complete shock,” she said.
The two will stay at a hotel just down the block from the Dolby Theatre, where the 89th annual Academy Awards are held. Before showtime, they’ll be seated in the bleachers right above the red carpet.
Asked who she is hoping to see, Peterson Klein didn’t want to mention anyone specific at first, but added that she’d love to meet Nicole Kidman or Brad Pitt.
She and her mom don’t have seats in the theater itself, but will attend a watch party in another large venue across the street after the red carpet event.
“I just can’t wait to take it all in!” she said.
Peterson Klein is a big fan of awards shows and movies, although the mother of three young children said the only movies she’s seen recently are of the Disney variety. Ever since she was a child herself, she’s wanted to volunteer at the Oscars.
“When you have something in your heart, it doesn’t go away,” she said.
Colleagues and friends went to work late last year, making a pitch for Peterson Klein.
She has experience. As part of her job at Bell Bank, she plans company events; and the past two years, she’s volunteered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
However, they learned the Oscars don’t take volunteers. Peterson Klein heard it’s “like an armored truck” to get in.
A few weeks later though, Steve Rohr, show publicist for the 89th Academy Awards, called back to say he was interested in Peterson Klein’s request and her work with the Pay It Forward program.
Rohr, a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, passed along the information to an Oscars committee and an invitation came soon after from the “proud Cobber” himself.
“For a woman who has moved heaven and earth for so many other people over the years, it seems fitting that the stars have aligned for Julie this Oscar Sunday,” Rohr said in a statement.
“We’re thrilled she’s joining us this year,” he added.
Peterson Klein works and lives in Fargo with her husband and children, but also spends several days a week at Bell Bank in Minneapolis. She’s an executive vice president and chief culture officer, in addition to her role with the Pay It Forward program.
As part of that program, started in 2007, every full-time employee has received $1,000 and every part-time employee $500 annually to give to an individual, family or organization in need.
In honor of Bell’s 50th anniversary celebration last year, the numbers were $2,500 and $1,000 respectively.
According to Bell Bank’s website, total program giving exceeded $10 million from 2007 to 2016.
Peterson Klein’s first aim on the job is giving back to others, but she’s also pretty excited to be on the receiving end of a generous gesture.
“I’m just honored, and I feel blessed and humbled that I’m going to have this opportunity,” she said.