Celebrity Jeopardy! is a special occurrence for everyone at Jeopardy! Sure, fans get to see their favorite celebrities compete against each other; and sure, those fans get to compete against their favorite celebrities from home. But most importantly, the celebrities behind each podium play for the charities of their choice – each of which is guaranteed to benefit monetarily from their appearance. No matter what, no organization is left empty-handed. How big of a donation they receive depends on how well their celebrity plays.
The money won by Jeopardy!’s celebrity contestants will have a profound impact on many of the charitable organizations, and many of the organizations have already expressed their gratitude. Below are some accounts of the real and positive changes made possible by Celebrity Jeopardy!
Celebrity Jeopardy! is a special occurrence for everyone at Jeopardy! Sure, fans get to see their favorite celebrities compete against each other; and sure, those fans get to compete against their favorite celebrities from home. But most importantly, the celebrities behind each podium play for the charities of their choice – each of which is guaranteed to benefit monetarily from their appearance. No matter what, no organization is left empty-handed. How big of a donation they receive depends on how well their celebrity plays. The money won by Jeopardy!’s celebrity contestants will have a profound impact on many of the charitable organizations, and many of the organizations have already expressed their gratitude. Below are some accounts of the real and positive changes made possible by Celebrity Jeopardy! Vince Gilligan, a contestant on Monday’s show and the series creator and executive producer of "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul," played for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, where his appearance garnered $14,900 for the development of Richmond’s youth.
Sarah Craig, of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Richmond, told us about the viewing party that took place to cheer Gilligan on. “I was out of town which nearly broke my heart, but I got text updates every few minutes. Apparently the kids really got into it, shouting answers and cheering. They were disappointed about Final Jeopardy!, of course, but also grasped the significance of Vince’s choice to support them. One of the kids who attended announced he would be on Jeopardy! one day and support BGCMR. This was particularly touching to me. Knowing he could be at this event and envision a fantastic future for himself is the impact we just can’t measure. Thanks so much for working with me to make sure this event happened for them.”
Neil Flynn, who won Monday’s game against Vince Gilligan and Debra Messing, claimed $50,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. They said of his donation, “One child every second enters a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital for treatment. Donations, like these funds won by Neil, help hospitals provide the very best care for the 10 million local kids treated every year.“
Aaron Rodgers, Tuesday’s winner, played for The MACC Fund – a childhood cancer research fund – and made a sizable donation by racking up $50,000 in prize money.
John Cary, of The MACC Fund, wrote, “The MACC Fund is not a big, national charity, but we have a big heart for kids and lots of great people like Aaron who help. We have given $52 million+ to kids cancer and blood disorders research. Thanks for what YOU do to help MACC help kids. Go to sleep tonight proud knowing you have helped a child battling cancer or blood disorders.”
A world-class doctor who works with The MACC Fund, and is often the last hope for kids with cancer, wrote a particularly moving note. It was directed towards Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin – a close friend of The MACC Fund and of Aaron Rodgers – who hosts Aaron’s weekly radio shows.
“The awareness and dollars raised since Aaron joined us has catalyzed a number of projects, none more important than making our clinical trials program world class. This has allowed us to open up experimental clinical trials that may help save lives. I have a 2-year old boy who is alive today because we put him on an experimental drug to treat a BMT complication two weeks ago. Without that infrastructure, we can’t get that drug and the outcome is likely different. So, thank you for everything you have done with our very caring, smart and talented quarterback to help the MACC Fund.”
Additionally, in a phone call from John Cary to our supervising producer, Rocky Schmidt, a big detail was divulged with regard to the impact this donation will make. While The MACC Fund gives $3.2 million in grants each year, they give eight researchers at the University of Wisconsin - Madison an annual grant of $50,000. Rocky notes, “What we/Aaron Rodgers gave to the charity funds one researcher’s grant for a year. Who knows what that person might discover about helping to eradicate childhood cancers?”
CNN anchor, John Berman, won $50,000 for Friends of Karen, which supports critically ill children and their families. They were thrilled when John took home the prize for them, and said, “We will use the $50,000 to help families who are caring for a child with cancer meet their everyday needs (like paying their rent, feeding their family, keeping their lights on and paying their child’s medical bills) and feel confident and secure during this health crisis. Every dollar will go directly to help our families.”
Bellamy Young has been a long-time supporter of Operation Blankets of Love. In fact, for the last two years, she organized successful collection drives of pet supplies from the cast and crew of “Scandal,” and she selected OBOL as the recipient of the $50,000 she won in Thursday’s game. Operation Blankets of Love’s mission is to improve the well-being of homeless animals and increase their chances for survival and adoption – with the ultimate aim of eliminating animal homelessness.
Eileen Smulson, founder and executive director of OBOL, said, “We want to take $10,000 of the $50,000 and ask Bellamy to have a certain project named after her and her rescue dog, Bean. No matter what she picks, it will help to save the lives of homeless animals. OBOL provides and donates new and recycled aid and comfort items to homeless animals that consist of stray, sick, neglected, owner-dumped and abused animals to shelters, rescues, pets of the homeless, fosters and sanctuaries. Some of the those items are blankets, towels, pet beds, food, treats, toys, dog igloos, grooming supplies and other pet supplies for their survival and well-being. Due to having the necessary supplies donated by OBOL, the rescues are able to use more of their very limited financial resources to pull more dogs and cats from shelters to avoid euthanization. The shelters have NO BUDGET for any comfort items across the country. The $40,000 left will help us to continue and expand to get to pick up, collect and distribute the items to donate to several thousand homeless animals. This includes the pets of the homeless. Now, they are able to keep their dogs fed, warm, and healthy. Since OBOL provides leashes and collars for their safety while living on the streets, they are able to avoid having their dogs removed by animal control and be euthanized. The funds will also be used for transportation and public outreach, as we travel over 600 miles a week.”
Penn Jillette won $50,000 in Friday’s game, and chose to donate it to Opportunity Village, Las Vegas. Dawn Newberg, Chief Development and Operations Officer, said, “The money won by Penn on Celebrity Jeopardy! will go towards programs and services that Opportunity Village provides for the over 3,000 children and adults with intellectual and related disabilities that we serve annually. Penn’s winnings give OVIPs the chance to live independent, creative, and productive lives by giving them the choices they need to succeed. I would like to thank Penn on behalf of the individuals we serve and the entire staff at Opportunity Village for his love and for his belief that every person should have the chance to excel.”
While we’re big on entertainment and education here at Jeopardy!, we’re proud to provide a philanthropic platform, too. We hope you enjoyed Celebrity Jeopardy! week.