For seven years, Anne Ballentine of Whitefish Bay, Wis., was a familiar face in thousands of Milwaukee households as a co-anchoring newscaster for the area’s top-rated news station, WTMJ-TV. Day after day, Anne delivered the latest news with her signature poise and pleasant smile. What many viewers failed to discern, however, was that the left arm resting gently on the news desk in front of the newscaster was in fact a prosthetic limb.
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Anne was born without a left forearm and has worn a prosthesis her entire life. But the philanthropist, newscaster and mother of three proves that the possibilities are endless for individuals who wear prosthetic limbs. “It has never held me back from doing the activities I enjoy,” she says.
When it comes to her arm, Anne is candid and nonchalant, approaching the subject with a light-hearted sense of humor. With a chuckle, she recalls a particularly memorable incident from her youth in which she was competing in a high school forensics tournament. “The judge sitting in the back of the room commented that I did a great job, but that my hand gestures were a little stiff,” Anne says with a laugh. “I’m assuming he didn’t notice my prosthetic hand or else he probably wouldn’t have said that.”
Beginning with her involvement in high school forensics and continuing into her career as a high-profile TV personality, Anne has always been a natural in front of the camera. In spite of her physical differences, she didn’t hesitate to dive into the broadcast business, an industry that demands perfection.
When asked if she experienced any discrimination applying for jobs as a newscaster, Anne answers that her limb difference went largely unnoticed. “Honestly, I don’t know what part my arm played in my career, whether it was positive or negative,” she says. “It wasn’t the focus of much attention, perhaps because I didn’t make it a big deal.”
Indeed, Anne’s outlook on her arm—and life in general—is remarkably positive, something she attributes to her supportive, loving parents. Growing up, they encouraged Anne to pursue a wide variety of activities, from tennis to gymnastics to cheerleading.
“My parents were great at figuring out where to focus my attention. They suggested the trumpet, not the flute; the auto-harp, not the piano,” says Anne, explaining that she grew up wearing a terminal device, a hook-like prosthesis. “It wasn’t about what I couldn’t do—it was about what I could do.”
Anne’s older sister Lynne struggled with severe disabilities and required around-the-clock care. As a result, “I was viewed as the able-bodied child,” Anne says. “My parents wanted me to get out there and be active.”
Today, physical fitness still remains an important component of Anne’s everyday life. Whether it’s jogging, attending a yoga class or doing P90X videos with her husband Jeff, Anne makes it a top priority to squeeze exercise into her busy schedule. “Living a healthy lifestyle is extremely important to me,” Anne says. “When I work out regularly, I find that I have a greater attitude and zest for life.”
Anne has found numerous ways to adapt her exercise routine to accommodate her prosthetic arm. For yoga, she recently purchased a special rubber attachment that lies flat on the ground, better enabling her to perform moves such as push-ups, planks and chaturangas. For running and swimming, she wears no prosthesis at all.
Since retiring from her job at WTMJ-TV in 1999, Anne has remained an active figure in the Milwaukee community. Combining her passion for philanthropy with her love of fitness, she serves on the Board of Directors for Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, an annual 5K run/walk event that raises funds for the fight against breast cancer.
“Breast cancer is a disease that touches so many lives,” Anne says. “I think it’s inspiring that so many people have come together to make a difference about it.”
Anne’s message to amputees and other individuals with disabilities is simple: Focus on abilities rather than disabilities; on strengths rather than weaknesses. She uses her sister Lynne as an example.
“As a result of Lynne’s condition, she was not able to walk or talk or even eat without assistance. But let’s focus on what she was able to do,” Anne says. “She had full understanding and picked up on every nuance in any conversation; she had a fierce loyalty to friends and family, and because of her magnetic personality, she had more friends than most people could hope to have.”