Reality competition shows are exciting for a number of reasons. Whether it’s a singing or talent competition show, or something left-of-field like surviving out in the elements, seeing participants show off their skillset, all the while competing with one another for the top prize is a real thrill.
One of the most iconic shows like this is “Survivor,” which finished its 43rd season in December 2022. Mike Gabler, a 52-year-old heart-valve specialist scooped up the top prize of $1 million, but it’s what he did after he won that has made history.
After being named Sole Survivor, Gabler announced on the set of the series after-show that he would be donating all of his winnings to veterans in need. The selfless winner told host Jeff Probst and his fellow contestants:
“There are people who need that money more. And I’m going to donate the entire prize — the entire million dollar prize, in my father’s name, Robert Gabler, who was a Green Beret — to veterans in need who are recovering from psychiatric problems, PTSD, and curb the suicide epidemic.”
Gabler had told his plan to viewers of the popular CBS show before he was announced the winner, and made good on his promise. Immediately after he announced his plans, Gabler said:
“We’re going to save lives and do something good. Season 43, all of us did this. A million dollars is going to them. We made history guys.”
In the show’s 22-year history, this is a first, and it’s clear that Probst and Gabler’s fellow contestants were in awe of his incredible act.
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After Probst asked Gabler, a Kingswood, Texas native, about his financial situation at home, the winner revealed he didn’t come from money, but he “worked very hard” and was “fortunate.” He explained the experience of the show taught him he was “rich at home” and that he has “an amazing life.” Gabler spoke of being a better husband and father, as well as a better son and brother, and added, “I’m going to do all those things just like all of us are going to do that when we go home.”
Season 43 of “Survivor” took place in Fiji and the show’s finale featured the top five competitors — Gabler, Cassidy Clark, Owen Knight, Jesse Lopez and Karla Cruz Godoy — battling it out for the win. After Clark, Knight and Gabler made it to the top three, a 7-1-0 vote secured his win.
Before his historical announcement, Gabler praised the show and his competitors:
“We all have a chance of a lifetime out here, an adventure of a lifetime. What we all learned from each other is priceless. We all made us better.”
On Twitter, Gabler — who is the second-oldest person ever to win “Survivor” — celebrated the “special moment” and wrote, “Thank you all for being on this journey with me.”
Meanwhile, Probst told Entertainment Weekly earlier in the season why he loves “doing the after-show in the jungle immediately following the announcement of the winner”:
“It’s so raw and so much more authentic. I know some fans miss the pomp and circumstance of bringing the players back months after the show ended. I fully appreciate that there is something very exciting about a live audience and seeing the players clean and all dressed up. But in terms of the conversations, there is no comparison. The jungle is where it’s at!”
Congratulations to Mike Gabler on winning season 43! What do you think of his incredibly generous donation? What would you do if you won $1 million? Let us know, then pass this on so others can see it too!
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