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"Survivor" Winner Donates $1 Million Prize to Veterans in Need. "There Are People Who Need That Money More."

"We're gonna save lives."

The winners of Survivor have spent the top $1 million prize in a variety of ways, but the winner of season 43 is a first: He's donating the entire amount to veterans in need. Mike Gabler, a heart-valve specialist from Houston, Texas (and at age 52, the second-oldest Survivor winner ever), had voiced those intentions during the season. But he revealed his plans to follow through during the after-show on Wednesday, right after his victory was announced. Read on to find out why he did it and the person who inspired the gift.

"There Are People Who Need That Money More"


Gabler made the announcement after a 7-1-0 vote from the jury boosted him to the top of the final three, scoring him the $1 million top prize. "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," said Gabler.

"We're Gonna Save Lives"


As his fellow castmates cheered, Gabler said, "all of us did this." "We're gonna save lives, we're gonna do something good. A million dollars is going to them. We made history, guys," he said. Gabler noted that several of his family members and friends are in the military. 

A Rich Man, In a Manner of Speaking


Asked by host Jeff Probst about his financial status, Gabler said he wasn't rich but had "worked very hard." "But I realized being through this experience, I am rich at home," he said. "I have an amazing life at home. I have an amazing family. I have amazing friends." He added: "I need to be a better husband, I need to be a better father, I need to be a better brother, son. I'm going to do all those things, just like all of us are going to do that, when we go home."

"The Adventure of a Lifetime"


Gabler told CBS Bay Area that his victory was "surreal" and said he wanted to do "something good with the money." "While I've never been in the service myself, to have the honor to serve them is pretty profound to me," he said. Before making his announcement, Gabler had plenty of praise for the Survivor experience. "We all have the chance of a lifetime out here, the adventure of a lifetime," he said. "What we all learned from each other is priceless. It all made us better."

Live Drama From the Jungle

Entertainment Weekly

Gabler's dramatic announcement was enabled by a format change this season, in which the after-show was broadcast live right after the final episode. "I love doing the after-show in the jungle immediately following the announcement of the winner. It's so raw and so much more authentic," Probst told Entertainment Weekly.

"I know some fans miss the pomp and circumstance of bringing the players back months after the show ended," he added. "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."

22 Years And Counting

cast of survivor
MGM Worldwide Television Distribution

Survivor is one of the first and longest-running reality TV shows in the world. It premiered on May 31, 2000, and has aired for 41 seasons. The concept of the show is simple: a group of strangers are stranded on a deserted island and must compete in challenges to earn rewards and immunity from elimination. Each week, one contestant is voted off the island until only one remains, who is crowned the Sole Survivor and wins a cash prize of $1 million.

Survivor has been filmed in various locations around the world, including the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Philippines. The show is known for its harsh conditions, with contestants facing extreme heat, hunger, and physical challenges.

Live Drama From the Jungle

russell hantz on survivor
MGM Worldwide Television Distribution

The show has a strong social element, as contestants must form alliances and strategize to survive in the game. This has led to some memorable moments, such as the Black Widow Brigade in Survivor: China and the Couples Alliance in Survivor: Blood vs. Water.

Survivor has been a hit with audiences and has won numerous awards, including two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Sound Mixing and Outstanding Sound Editing. It has also spawned several spin-off series, including Survivor: All-Stars, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, and Survivor: Game Changers.

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