After Baywatch and Playboy, Columbus-raised Donna D'Errico searches for Noah's Ark

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 19, 2013 

Years after she starred on "Baywatch," Columbus-raised Donna D'Errico is focusing on another interest commonly associated with water: Noah's Ark.

The former Playboy Playmate, who was once married to rocker Nikki Sixx, might seem like an unlikely candidate to climb Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey -- a site some people believe is the location of Noah's Ark.

But D'Errico, 45, maintains she's pursuing a longtime dream.

"Even when I was living sinfully, I still had that dream to climb Mount Ararat," she said in a recent phone interview.

D'Errico, who played Donna Marco on "Baywatch," is relying on Internet "crowdfunding" to help finance a documentary about searching for Noah's Ark. She's collecting money for the documentary through Kickstarter -- a website that lets people pledge money to support a variety of creative projects.

(Click here to donate to D'Errico's project.)

"What you may not know is that while I was running on the beach alongside David Hasselhoff, which to many would have been a dream job, I was actually dreaming about something completely different: searching for Noah's Ark," she writes on Kickstarter.

She adds, "Yes, the Noah's Ark from the Bible."

Her Kickstarter goal is at least $10,000, which must be raised by July 25, according to the website.

Kickstarter funding is all-or-nothing, so she won't get any money if she doesn't hit the $10,000 mark. She expects to make the journey either way, but she said the documentary depends on the Kickstarter funding.

There are various incentives to contribute, based on the size of your donation. Give $10 and you'll get a personal shout-out on D'Errico's Facebook and Twitter pages. Give $75 and you'll get an autographed T-shirt, among other things.

At 10:30 p.m. Friday, she was at $8,227.

D'Errico, who currently lives in California, attended St. Anne and Pacelli Catholic schools in Columbus. As a child, she moved to the area when her father was sent to Fort Benning with the military. She still has family here.

Her interest in Noah's Ark started in Columbus.

D'Errico described a third-grade field trip in Columbus, when she watched "In Search of Noah's Ark," a documentary about the topic.

"I just became really mesmerized by Noah's Ark," she said. "It's kind of inexplicable."

What's the story behind the site of her expedition?

"The Bible says that after the flood, Noah's Ark landed on the mountains of Ararat. Throughout the years, there have been a handful of explorers who claimed to have seen the Ark on modern-day Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey. Some have been frauds, but many have been highly respected individuals whose eyewitness accounts are considered legitimate," she writes on Kickstarter.

Google "Noah's Ark found" and you'll find a mix of promise and skepticism.

This isn't D'Errico's first expedition to Mount Ararat. In 2012, she climbed the mountain, began filming the documentary and searched for Noah's Ark for nearly two weeks.

"I am returning again this summer with my team to attempt to reach an area on the mountain that we were able to get very close to last summer, but did not have time to attempt to climb to," D'Errico writes on Kickstarter.

What encouraged D'Errico to fulfill her dream? She got serious about making the expedition a reality after she was hospitalized in 2010.

She had an MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, infection. It's "caused by a strain of staph bacteria that's become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections," according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Once I was home, I realized that I had nearly died without having accomplished what I always said I would do before I died," she writes on Kickstarter.

Needless to say, much has changed since D'Errico first made headlines in the entertainment world.

"I went through a phase in my life where I fell away from the church," said D'Errico, who is Catholic. "I know I've sinned, and I've sinned publicly."

D'Errico says about seven years ago, she embraced religion once again -- an experience she prefers to call a reversion, rather than a conversion.

"The way that I was living before was not right," she said. "I've closed the door on that part of my life."

Sonya Sorich, 706-571-8516.

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