Survivor 43 winner Mike Gabler made history on Wednesday night after he revealed he’d be donating his entire $1 million prize to veterans.
The heart valve specialist, 52, had been telling viewers of the CBS competition series his plan before nabbing the win, but followed through with his promise after being named Sole Survivor.
“There are people who need that money more,” Gabler told host Jeff Probst during the Survivor after show, filmed moments after his win. “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.”
“We’re going to save lives and do something good,” the Kingwood, Tex. native continued amid cheers from jurors and castmates. “Season 43, all of us did this. A million dollars is going to them. We made history guys,” he added in the tender moment.
Ahead of his big reveal, Gabler could not praise the Survivor enough, sharing what an impact it had on him and the rest of the contestants. “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.”
The long-running reality competition show took place on the Fiji Islands again this season. Along with Gabler, the three-hour season finale consisted of top five competitors — Owen Knight, Jesse Lopez, Cassidy Clark and Karla Cruz Godoy — with Clark, Knight and Gabler making it to the final three.
After a 7-1-0 vote from jurors knocked out his final competitors, Gabler officially won. It was the first time his name had been written down all season.
Gabler, who is the second oldest winner in the show’s history, went on to say that he’s been “fortunate enough to come from a military family.”
When Probst respectfully asked what his financial situation was at home, considering his “beautiful gesture,” Gabler noted that he does not come from money.
“No I’ve worked very hard, I’ve been fortunate,” he said. “But you know, I realized being through this experience, I am rich at home. I have an amazing life at home. I have an amazing family. I have amazing friends. I need to be a better husband, I need to be a better father, I need to be a better brother, I need to be a better son. I’m going to do all those things just like all of us are going to do that when we go home.”
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