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Minerva Award by Maria Shriver


Minerva, the Terminator and Me

Minerva, the Terminator and Me


Keith Hall, Jr.


            Trying to look as buff as I can, I approach the registration desk. I am on the 9th floor of the Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel, attending the awards banquet for the annual conference of the National Association for Health and Fitness. It is being held in conjunction with the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. The man behind the sign-in desk asks me my name. “I’m Keith Hall, Jr.,”  I reply. “I’m sitting at Diane Sabba’s table.” By being assigned to Diane’s table I mark myself as a VIP. Diane is the coordinator of this conference. She warned me not to say I’m sitting at Minerva’s table, since nobody would understand what that means.


            Minerva has been my nickname for Diane since I nominated her for the Register’s prestigious Minerva Award, an award given to a California woman who’s done much more than her share to help others. Diane was certainly at the top of my list (since I couldn’t nominate myself) because of the countless activities she’s involved with. A physical trainer, Diane has worked tirelessly to keep the nation fit, especially children. She’s also been a spokeswoman for Viet Nam veterans and survivors of 9/11. However one of her greatest causes has been victims of toxic mold syndrome, especially since she suffers from this malady herself, sometimes quite severely. All too many times I haven’t heard from her for weeks at a time, only to learn that she’d been extremely ill from this syndrome, and precariously close to joining that great big 24 Hour Fitness in the sky. But, as typical for Diane, just as soon as she can breathe properly, she’ll pop right out of her sick bed, and leap right into another cause. When I sent my nomination to the Register, they were so impressed with Diane’s achievements, they used my nomination to demonstrate what a true Minerva should be.


            Once, in order to locate the source of Diane’s infection, the doctors did a series of tests where they punctured her arm more than 50 times.  To commemorate the occasion, I wrote a poem for Diane.


Getting the Point


Poor Diane was seeing red.

“I really hate these pricks,” she said.

She told the doctors, “Stop it quick.

I cannot stand another prick!”


Diane became the California representative for the National Association for Health and Fitness. In this capacity, she worked closely with the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Last year I got a desperate phone call from Diane. The Council was going to shoot a public service announcement to promote children’s sports. Diane had arranged for several people to portray parents in this PSA. However, at the last minute, nearly all of them had backed out. Diane needed some warm bodies immediately. Knowing this feeling all too well, I was only too happy to help, especially since Diane and her husband Luke had no experience at acting in a commercial, while I do.


            We all drove to a park near the Farmers Market in Los Angeles. The star of the PSA was Jake (Body by Jake) Steinfeld, who is the chairman of the Governor’s Council. In this PSA, a girl soccer team wins a big game unexpectedly, and we parents all run onto the field to congratulate them. Diane had just gotten over one of her bad attacks, and was feeling pretty low. Yet, when it came time for us to run on the field, there she was, cheering and screaming and looking as full of energy as ever. I’ll never forget that image of her.


            If ever you turn on Channel 13 at 3:00 AM some morning, you might just catch our act. At the time we shot the PSA, I teased Diane that this was our second video appearance together. The first one ended up as evidence in a trial at Superior Court. The story behind how that all happened will have to remain for another occasion.


            The previous year’s annual conference for the National Association for Health and Fitness had been held in Buffalo, New York, and had been frightening lightly attended. Some worried that the next year there might not even be another conference. In typical fashion, Diane jumped up and declared California would host the next conference, and it would be a smash. The fact that California’s governor is a famous body builder certainly didn’t hurt her argument. The Association agreed, and put Diane in charge.


            Several months later, I got another desperate call from Diane. The Association wanted her to come up with a press release to publicize the conference, but she’d never done one before. She was near panic. So I walked her through it, and we came up with something the Association could use. They eventually reworked it a little bit so it would play better nationally, but at least we gave them something to build on. It is for my efforts on the PSA and the press release that I am attending the awards banquet tonight.


            Diane isn’t feeling well again, but she’s not going to let it slow her down. She’s very tired because the two-day conference has had a million problems to be dealt with. However, it has been very well attended—much better than the Buffalo conference, so Diane is very proud. Our old co-star Jake Steinfeld is the MC for the banquet. During the ceremony, individuals, schools, companies and organizations that have furthered the cause of health and fitness are recognized. Diane briefly mentions my humble contributions. An award is also presented to Governor Schwarzenneger for his support in the cause of healthy children. Diane had hoped Arnie would accept the award in person, but instead he sends a very funny DVD to congratulate everyone and to accept his award. It’s probably just as well that Arnie and I aren’t on the same stage together; that might be too much machismo for the audience to handle. Arnie also sends an official Governor’s jacket for Diane with a special inscription in it. Diane refuses to take it off for the rest of the evening.


            There is another surprise in store for Diane as well. The Association presents her with a distinctive award for all the hard work she put into the conference. Diane is nearly speechless, which is completely unlike her. But then she tells the audience extempore that ever since 9/11 she’s pledged to help our nation stay fit, not only spiritually, but physically as well. This is why she thinks the work of the National Association for Health and Fitness is doing such an important job for the people of the United States. I’m very proud of her.


            The dinner is over, the conference is just about finished, so Diane can finally relax at last. She, Luke and several others repair to the bar for a well deserved drink. Still wearing her inscribed jacket, Diane tells me she’s thinking in terms of bourbon. She invites me to join them, but, as everybody knows, I have no head for alcohol. So I congratulate them all, and head for home. It’s late, I’m tired, and I have some intricate aerobics to perform.