A moving gesture. James Holzhauer, who won 32 straight games of Jeopardy! from April to June, donated a portion of his $2,462,216 earnings to his hometown’s Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk in honor of show host Alex Trebek.
Ann Zediker, who runs a personal fundraising page for the walk, recently reached out to Holzhauer to congratulate him on his success and to invite him to join the Naperville walk on July 14.
Though the game show contestant, 35, declined the invite, he sent along $1,109.14 (a reference to his daughter’s birthday of November 9, 2014) and made the donation in the name of “Alex Trebek and all the other survivors.”
“I really respect Alex for continuing to show up to work,” Holzhauer told Us Weekly while attending the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday, June 19. “I think he’s doing great work, not just going to work and persevering through everything, but also being a public face of this disease that claims so many lives.”
“Just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer,” he said in the clip. “Now, normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m gonna fight this and I’m gonna keep working and with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.”
The game show host has been struggling with his emotions since then. “My oncologist tells me I’m doing well even though I don’t always feel it. I’ve had kidney stones, I’ve had ruptured discs, so I’m used to dealing with pain,” he shared during a May 1 appearance on Good Morning America. “But what I’m not used to dealing with is the surges that come on suddenly of deep, deep sadness and it brings tears to my eye. I’ve discovered in this whole episode, ladies and gentlemen, that I’m a bit of a wuss.”
From a physical standpoint, however, Trebek said he was doing as well as can be expected. “My platelets, my blood counts are steady,” he continued. “My weight is steady. … The cancer indicators, those are coming down. I’ve got another chemo next week and we’ll do a review and see where things stand.”
Holzhauer set the record for the show’s highest single day earnings of $131,327 on April 17.
The trivia whiz fell short of breaking Ken Jennings’ 74-day winning streak record on June 3, however, when he lost on the 33rd day of the competition to Emma Boettcher.
“Nobody likes to lose,” he told The New York Times at the time. “But I’m very proud of how I did, and I really exceeded my own expectations for the show. So I don’t feel bad about it.”
Holzhauer’s defeat was the most-watched episode of the show in 15 years.
In addition to his cancer donation, Holzhauer revealed to Us at the Bridgestone-sponsored NHL event that he also plans to give back by donating to other charities, like Project 150, which works with homeless teenagers in Vegas. “My wife and I are working with them to give a scholarship to them and give to their general fund for the kids that need it,” he told Us, adding, “Honestly, I don’t know what I could spend $2 million dollars on, but I know it can help a lot of people more than it can help me.”
With reporting by Ryan Slattery