The grand marshals who will lead off the Towson Area Fourth of July Parade this year are Patrice and Monte Sanders, a celebrity couple accustomed to life in the limelight.
She's a Towson University grad who's been in the broadcasting business for 19 years and currently anchors "Morning News" for Fox45 TV.
He's a fitness expert and personal trainer with a national reputation who, thanks to his dedication, has built a career and a nonprofit foundation around helping others to lead healthy and productive lives. He has orchestrated workouts for everybody from former Ravens players Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to 11-year-old Baltimore City school children to, in one instance, President Barack Obama.
"Both Patrice and Monte have been recognized for the success they have achieved in their careers," said Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, which took over producing the parade this year. "But we chose them because they give so much back to the community.
"We're thankful, given their busy schedules, that they were able to give us the time."
The Sanders are more than happy to serve.
"I think it's awesome we've been asked to be grand marshals," said Patrice, 41, who built her broadcasting career as Patrice Harris until she wed Monte two years ago. "We expect it will be a lot of fun.
"We both believe in giving back to the community — and Monte never turns down an opportunity to promote fitness."
"It's everything to me," said Monte, 46, CEO of Sanders Optimum Fitness and of Monte Sanders' Fit Families, the foundation he co-founded with Patrice in 2009 to combat childhood obesity.
He has served on the Maryland State Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and as a Heart Health spokesman for the American Heart Association.
He was in banking for 17 years — 13 of them as a manager, when he took a spiritual inventory, he said. "I reached out to God and asked him to direct me to some purpose.
"The constant in my life had been working out; it was my passion. It was revealed to me to help others with that passion."
He became a certified trainer and the rest is history. Now he feels the more people he has touched, the more God has blessed him.
"Health is the true wealth," he said, "not the money, not the career."
He must be inspiring. The two met in 2006 when he came on her show for a segment. She worked out with him on the show, became a client, joined him in ventures promoting fitness and eventually became his wife.
Patrice, who majored in mass communication at TU, knew the career she wanted from the beginning. "I enjoy storytelling, meeting people — and talking," she said. "Just ask my family."
In 2006, she was the recipient of TU's Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award, and she has won numerous awards for her journalism, according to the Fox45 website about the station's news team. She has also mentored journalism students and served on the board of advisors for TU's mass communications department. She is also an adjunct teacher of newswriting at Sheffield Broadcast Institute, the website says.
Patrice, who said she is an advocate for children's nutrition and fitness, is a certified fitness instructor and children's fitness specialist. She also serves as president of her husband's Monte Sanders' Fit Families, according to the website.
Patrice and Monte developed a new passion when their daughter, Naomi Grace Sanders, was born in March.
"Parenthood is more challenging than any job I have ever had," Patrice said, "but we are both in love with being parents. It's the best thing in the world."
Yes, it means losing sleep and getting up in the middle of the night, Monte said. "But I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world. At the end of the day, it's worth every second."
This will be their daughter's first parade, Patrice said. "Hopefully she will enjoy it. It could be interesting."