Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 35-year-old Champaign resident ALLY BROEREN SEHY, a senior vice president at Busey Bank, chats with The News-Gazette's Paul Wood. She enjoys dancing and was a serious athlete at one time.
You and your husband met as first-graders in Champaign. Was it love at first sight or did you fight over the chocolate milk?
Zach caught my eye in second grade. He kept my attention with his amazing smile, smarts, friendliness, athleticism and his handsome profile reminded me of Patrick Swayze from the movie "Ghost." I'd say it was love over time.
You recently won 'Dancing With the C-U Stars.' How did you prepare for that? Did you take dancing lessons?
Preparation was everything — but it had little to do with dancing. "Dancing with the C-U Stars" is all about increasing awareness of the Boys & Girls Club and raising money to support its mission. My family, friends, colleagues and social-media connections were all privy to my participation going into the event — they prepared me by donating. Yes, Zach, Marcus and I practiced. We spent 10 hours at Art in Motion (learning and laughing) over a handful of Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, and Zach and I snuck in a few 20-minute solo practices on the side.
Your pro dance partner — Marcus Hardy — was joined on the dance floor by a surprise guest. How did that come about?
Zach stopped by my first practice. He knew Marcus, and I had discussed choreographing a three-person dance. As Zach walked into the room, he heard the music and couldn't help but show off his moves (because Sehys love to dance!) — Marcus' wife, Sarah (also a professional dancer), saw Zach breaking it down and immediately said "he's in." No question, Zach was the best part of our dance.
Was the real inspiration the hundreds who donated to the cause?
Saying yes to dancing had everything to do with my daughter. If she were asked to do something well outside of her comfort zone and came to me for advice, of course I would encourage her to do it. I would suggest she not to take herself so seriously that she turn down opportunities, especially when it can have a significant positive impact on others.
What made you decide to go into banking?
The pay was better than offers for positions in fields closer to my major (business marketing). That, I needed a job and I like a challenge. It's that simple.
Tell us about your athletic career.
My Mom signed me up for cross-country in fifth grade because a couple of my friends were on the list. I had no idea what cross-country meant. I thought it had to do with skiing. Nine years later, leading into my sophomore year at the University of Illinois, I stopped running competitively. Why? I was not headed to the Olympics, and I liked to race and win, not train. Along the way, a few things happened:
I would not have gone to my first track meet, had not it been for a talk with my step-mom that helped me build the courage to show up and compete. That conversation impacted the course of my life.
A little green spiral-bound notebook was filled with quotes for the team to draw inspiration from on track and cross-country meet days. To this day, I am inspired by and enjoy quotes.
I always identified myself as an athlete and competitor — the significance competitive sports have played in my life, personally and professionally, has never been matched.
Now I'll happily sign up for a fun Y run, but my competitive nature is applied elsewhere in my life.
You're a volunteer basketball coach at St. Matthew. Are your two children involved?
Yes. Our whole family is involved, including grandparents and my godfather, Kevin Sullivan, who has helped coach alongside my dad. Our daughter helps at practice by working with the girls on defense. She may be the team's biggest fan.
What's something almost nobody knows about you?
I'm an open book, so there can't be much. The first call I make when something significant is going on in my life is usually to one of my brothers, Mike or Greg. On a lighter note, Zach has a couple of nicknames for me that no one knows about: CC and Pickle. Those are good for a laugh.
What are the elements of a great day for you?
A great day starts with a restful night (for which the bar is low). The elements of a great day are simple: health, family and friends, hot coffee, comfy clothes, music, laughter, delicious food and drinks. Taking it to the next level would set this all during a cool and sunny fall day. I love a good road trip adventure, casual live music and a cold brew with BBQ (now is about the time I realize that I've adopted some of my husband's favorites as my own).
Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?
"A" guilty pleasure? No. Many guilty pleasures, definitely.
A homemade shake or Oreos and a large glass of milk while watching "Chopped" and lounging on the couch, prioritizing coffee over making breakfast for the kids (that runs in my bloodline — thanks, Mama), choosing sleep over doing dishes ...
What's your favorite sports team?
What would you order for your last meal?
Hands down, my mom's chicken pot pie (recipe handed down by grandma, Cec Broeren) and a big glass of 2 percent milk.
Who are your favorite musicians and why?
Music grounds me and evokes emotions. I love a relaxing weekend with Ray LaMontagne and Ryan Adams in the background. The style feels like a musical version of my heart and soul and their words connect with my perspective and experiences. Norah Jones goes well with red wine and an evening at home. Our Paul Simon station on Pandora is a weekday morning favorite.
What personality traits do you most appreciate in other people?
Positivity, authenticity and friendliness.
What's your best piece of advice?
Read "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann.
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
Baby-sitting in the mid-to-late '90s paid probably $5 an hour? The pay doesn't stand out in my memory as much as the hilariousness of being responsible for children back then.
What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?
I took a brief hiatus from the world of finance and banking. My decision to return was most pivotal for me because it is when I embraced what my true passions are in life — and those have a lot to do with people and doing the best I can while I'm here on this Earth.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
As Zach would remind me, stress is all relative.