The first thing Sandy Draghi and boyfriend Jeremy Cline did after returning from their was to simplify their lives by holding two garage sales.
It wasn’t to make way for new items, but a response to seeing people in the world who had so little when they owned so much. Draghi, who has volunteered for medical aid trips through her work as a nurse practitioner, says she hopes to do even more charity work now that they’ve seen the poverty that exists in the world — and Cline is right there with her.
And that wasn’t the only life-changer that happened to Livermore native Draghi and her Castro Valley raised boyfriend Cline.
“We started that race going a million miles an hour. I wanted to go in my direction and Jeremy wanted to go in his,” Draghi says. “It took us until Leg 7 before we started learning some communication skills.”
The couple acknowledges that they were probably cast as the warring couple whose relationship might not survive the race — but instead the brutal ordeal just drew them closer. In fact, the two moved in together in Cline’s Alamo home after returning from the four-week competition last summer.
Draghi, who graduated from in 1995 before going to study at the University of San Francisco, says she and Cline were independent in both their lives and their careers. Cline is a commercial real estate agent who graduated from Cal State East Bay after his 1994 graduation from Castro Valley High School.
“We both had been single for a while, used to being on our own. In this, you needed to be a partner and we were not being partners to each other,” Draghi admits. “We hit a real low spot and then had a real transformation over those four weeks.”
Cline says they both were used to being in control and not taking a backseat to anyone.
“We were cast, I think, as the bickering couple,” says Cline. “It was much harder than we anticipated and we learned how to communicate with each other under intense stress and pressure.”
Both attribute their change in attitude to watching other players like the long-time married couple and the free-spirited snowboarders.
“Bill and Cathi would be passing us on multiple tasks and we’d see how they positively reinforced each other,” Cline says. “Then you would see Andy and Tommy just having fun no matter what position they were in. We took our inspiration from them.”
But it was an incident in Indonesia that proved to be the real game changer. Draghi says she and Cline had a “snotty attitude” about getting stuck in a smelly, cockroach-infested train for a 16-hour ride. At one point, Cline opted to check out the view from the train.
It was then that he saw abject poverty right in front of him, with starving children around burning garbage.
“It didn’t look like a safe place, or a healthy place. It took my breath away,” says Cline, his voice breaking slightly. “It changed the way I was thinking about my life and who was I to complain when you see what else is happening in the world?”
Draghi says they both want to do more for others after their experience.
“Growing up in the Bay Area, Jeremy and I have both been fortunate. I’ve done medical missions, but I want to do more,” Draghi says. “When you see what we have, that extreme level of poverty, it sparks you to do more for others.”