Danielle Vollmar, Meteorologist from WCVB Channel 5, provides insight into what it takes to make it in television and all of lessons for which she is grateful.
There are so many things in life for which to be thankful. This year, as I enjoy an aspired position in my career and plan a wedding, I’d like to share the journey that brought me to this place in my life and all of the wonderful lessons I learned along the way.
I have had a love for weather ever since 8th grade. It started when my mentor and “Weather Dad,” as I like to call him, Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz came to my school for Career Day. Little did I know, weather would be the passion that would take me all over the country. By high school, weather was so much part of my personality my nickname became Doppler, for Doppler radar. Soon I was on my way to Cornell University to study atmospheric science, and with a love for my field and some good old fashioned hard work, I eventually had my degree and was looking for my first on air job.
This is where people don’t realize how unglamorous the world of television news really is. It takes many sacrifices and a willingness to embark to unknown destinations to find success.
My first destination was Salisbury, Maryland, and boy, was I excited! Salisbury is on the Delmarva Peninsula. Don’t worry if you don’t know where that is; because, although it was only two hours from my hometown of Philly I had never heard of it either. When I arrived, I literally asked where the downtown was. The locals pointed to a strip of three-story buildings and said that was it. You might say I was disappointed at first, but of course, I ended up loving it there.
This was one of the first lessons for which I am thankful. I learned that you have to make the most out of the place you live. I got involved with a lot of charities and since I worked Monday to Friday on TV, on the weekends I would drive home to Philly or visit Baltimore and DC (only two hours away) to see my friends and family. The other gift Salisbury gave me was that I literally grew up there. They chopped my hair to make me look 22 going on 32 and taught me to wear pant suits and blazers. In the small town, I honed my craft and after 2 ½ years I was ready to move on to the next destination in my journey. But where next?
Most people don’t know this, but I was actually born in Erie, Pennsylvania. My mom always talked about one day in particular. She was walking me in a stroller when the sky turned black as night and she hurried home because she thought it was going to rain. She flipped on the TV and saw a tornado warning for our county. A tornado was on the ground five miles from where we lived! So, she hurried us downstairs and we waited out the storm. That day was called the Great Tornado Outbreak of 1985 and over 80 tornadoes touched down that day. Over 40 people were killed.
Although, I was too young to remember this event, I have always been fascinated by tornadoes. So, when the FOX in Oklahoma City called and asked me to come be their weekend meteorologist I could not pass up the opportunity. This was my next stopover on my career path, and one that would impart many gifts for which I am grateful today.
However, they did not give me much of a moving allowance. It was 2009 and times were tough, especially for a young meteorologist. So, my amazing and supportive parents volunteered to do the 24 hour drive across the country with me. We packed up my stuff and headed to Oklahoma. When we arrived, I remember thinking how hot it was. The mercury spilled over 100 degrees on move-in day. The flat and treeless land also made a big impression on me. However, this time, there was at least a cityscape skyline, so I knew I was in a legitimate city! Regardless, when my parents left, I cried like a baby. I really was on my own this time, in the middle of the country, knowing no one.
As time passed, I realized how different things were in the Midwest. They said words like y’all and fixin’. Life moved slower. Yet, they were the friendliest people I had ever met. Despite my initial fears, I ended up meeting some of the best friends a girl could ever have, and special friendships are something for which we should all be grateful! In fact, two of the girls are in my wedding!
At a Recent Bridal Shower with My Midwest Girls!
These girls taught me so many life lessons. They showed me how to be more lady-like, which translated well on TV. Truth be told, I was a college jock who never wore make-up until my job on TV. They introduced me to extensions. (And yes, I got them to make my hair look fuller on TV.) They showed me how to use a curling iron and how to accessorize outfits. They also taught me patience and kindness, traits we in the Northeast sometimes forget as we live life in such a hurried pace. For this, I will always be grateful.
While at Fox in Oklahoma City, I not only covered tons of severe weather, but I got to show my personality as a feature reporter/good day anchor on our long morning show. I really became well-rounded and I actually started to think I may want to try hosting, since I was headed in that direction at that location.
So, when the CW (Warner Brothers) in Dallas asked me to come be a national host for their new syndicated morning show, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. In case you are counting, that was my 3rd move since college and I was only 27!
It was only three hours down the road from Oklahoma City, so I could still see my girls from time to time. I also got lucky and happened to connect with a girl who also worked in TV. She was moving out of state, but introduced me to her best friend with the instructions to take care of me. I guess you could call her friend a Dallas socialite. But, she was also one of the most down-to-earth women I have ever met. And yes, she took me under her wing. I had such a fun time in Dallas doing a really unique job and also getting to attend some of the most amazing charity events. After a year though, I really started to miss my calling. I needed to get back to my passion- forecasting the weather. I also felt it was time to get back to the Northeast where my heart belonged. My friends from childhood were all starting to get engaged and married and I did not want to miss out on participating in their life changes. I was also finally ready to settle down and plant roots of my own. In my heart, I knew Dallas wasn’t the place.
My fourth and final move was in 2013 to WCVB-TV Channel 5 in Boston and I will never forget it. I arrived on April 1st and just a couple of weeks later, the Marathon Bombings happened. I am an avid runner, and although I wasn’t running the marathon that year, text messages flooded into my phone to make sure I was okay. I was so horrified and heart-broken something like that could happen. That day I vowed I would run the following year and I did. I raised over $7000 for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, which is honestly one of the greatest achievements of my life.
Me and My Folks
The other result from that day was bringing, David, the guy I was dating at the time and I closer together. From that point on, we were inseparable. And, I happy to say he is my fiancé today and I get to marry him in June of next year!
Engagement Photo of My Fiance David Armbrecht and Me
My move to Boston brought my trip halfway around the country full-circle and I truly believe I was meant to come here. I have a great job and I met the love of my life. Success and love; could I ask for anything more? Truly I am grateful for my journey and where it brought me.
People ask me all the time how I could just move so far away without knowing anyone. I believed in my career and I had a dream. I just followed it and I learned along the way always to be friendly and talk to people, because you never know when you will make that special connection or how you can help each other in the future. This year, I am so thankful for the path I traveled and all of the life lessons it has taught me.
By the same token, I now give back by going to schools, hoping that I too (like Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz) can inspire students to follow their dreams and in particular follow a career path in the math and science fields. If I can get one kid to become a meteorologist I have done my job!
Having Fun with the Kids at the Green Screen!
As we kick off the holiday season, I’d like to share the simple message to follow your passion and be thankful for life’s lessons; they are on every corner of your journey and help to create the person you are today.
Danielle Vollmar is a StormTeam 5 meteorologist for WCVB-TV Channel 5.