RENO, Nev. (AP) — When Bonnie-Jill Laflin needs a break from the fast track that is her life, she comes home to Spanish Springs.
The sportscaster, actress, model, NBA scout, wounded warrior advocate, animal rights advocate, entrepreneur, and former San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Golden State Warriors cheerleader keeps a whirlwind schedule.
“I’ve always been one of those people that likes to have a ton of irons in the fire,” Laflin said recently at the home of her parents, Ross and Bunnie Laflin, in Spanish Springs. “You only live once, right, so try to do as much as you can.”
She has fit quite a lot into her 37 years, much of it in support of two passions in her life — supporting the military and animal welfare.
“Coming from a military family, my love for the military started at a very young age,” Laflin said. “Both my grandfathers served in World War II. My grandfather on my mom’s side was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. He was in the Baatan Death March, a POW. My dad’s dad was in the Army Air Corps. I have an uncle who was a career Marine. My dad was a career law enforcement officer.”
Throughout her time as a cheerleader for the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, she participated USO tours, to entertain the troops overseas — assignments that took her to Bosnia, Germany, Korea, Japan and points around the world. She continued to go after her cheerleading days, often emceeing USO events, including nine trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.
She spent last Christmas in Kuwait and Iraq with the troops.
Her love of animals started in childhood as well. When she had a birthday party, she would ask for donations to animal shelters instead of presents. She rode horses and competed in barrel racing.
She was always rescuing animals and bringing them home — a practice she continued today. Her parents’ ranch home, overlooking the Spanish Springs Valley, is home to eight dogs, two cats, four goats and three chickens — all rescued by Bonnie-Jill.
In 2010, she was able to combine both her passions, starting a charitable organization called Hounds and Heroes. It is a national nonprofit dedicated to lift the spirits and morale of active, wounded, and veteran military troops, and to increase awareness about the cruelty to animals.
Using her connections with the Cowboys and 49ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, where she worked for five years as the only female scout in the NBA, Laflin arranges outings for wounded troops to NFL and NBA games.
She also visits wounded troops in hospitals and sends care packages overseas.
At the same time, Laflin includes her dedication to rescuing animals, in this case dogs.
“We’re rescuing dogs from the shelters, training them and then pairing them up with a service member who needs them, whether it’s as a therapy or a service dog,” she said. “There are different needs. Some are for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), some are because they’re an amputee. There are different things. The way we look at it is we’re saving two lives.”
The charity is Laflin’s unpaid part-time job. She also works full time as a sports broadcaster and also does some acting when time allows. (She appeared in the TV series “Baywatch” and “Ally McBeal” in music videos and, just recently, was on an episode of the Comedy Central show “Key and Peel,” portraying a news anchor.)
After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in broadcast journalism, (working as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader at the time), she worked for ESPN as a correspondent on the morning program “Cold Pizza.” She also had a show called “Speed World” covering motor sports.
She’s now an independent broadcaster in Los Angeles, and also produces a sports show in China, traveling there ever two to three months. She’s big on social media in the United States with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. She’s a virtual rock star in China, which has its own social media, with millions of followers.
She also has her own line of clothing, and other ventures, including a charitable calendar for her fans to raise money for her charities.
“If I could just do charity work, it’s all I would do,” she said. “That’s probably what really fulfills me the most is giving back. I have a lot of great support from the teams that I’ve worked with from the Lakers to the Niners to the Cowboys. Anytime I reach out and say, hey, I need to bring five wounded warriors to a game, they say, ‘Bonnie-Jill, whatever you need.'”
Her ultimate career goal: to be owner of the San Francisco Giants, her favorite team.
In the meantime, Laflin enjoys jumping off the fast track whenever possible and staying with her parents.
“For me to be able to come to my parents’ house and just relax, I just love it,” she said. “My parents have all kinds of animals, all rescues, so it’s nice to decompress. Living in L.A., it’s very fast-paced, very high-strung and stressful. It’s good to get away from the hustle and bustle.”