elderly veteran saluting to an american flag.
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
January 5, 2024 ·  4 min read

Winner of “Survivor” Donated his 1 Million Dollar Winnings to Veterans

Veterans, other military personnel, and their families make undeniable sacrifices. They bravely risk their lives, physical well-being, and even their relationships with their loved ones. Therefore, it’s not just heartwarming when someone like the winner of Survivor’s 43rd season offers to donate his winnings; it’s also life-changing for those receiving the gift.

Survivor is a popular reality TV show that first aired nearly 24 years ago. It’s a competition show in which cast members are separated into teams. Mercilessly, they then complete challenges that relate to one of three categories: physical, mental, or social. The overall goal is to avoid elimination by working together as a team and accomplishing all the challenges, like word puzzles, navigation, and target practice successfully.

Making a Donation for Veterans

Mike Gabler season 43 Survivor winner
Mike Gabler. Image Credit CBS

Recently, a Survivor winner has disclosed his heartwarming plans to donate his $1 million winnings to veterans. Mike Gabler was a 52-year-old heart valve specialist and the Season 43 finale winner. Interestingly, he made history with a lot of firsts. As well as almost firsts including being making him the second oldest contestant to ever win the title, “Sole Survivor“. Another incredible element separates this contestant from all the others. His decision to donate all of his winnings to veterans in need. Meanwhile, others have previously opted to make charitable donations with portions of their earnings. For example, Parvati Shallow, donated $50,000 to a female boxing charity and Adam Klein donated $100,000 to various causes.

“There are people that need that money more. 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 struggling from psychiatric problems, PTSD, and to curb the suicide epidemic.” He said. “We’re gonna save lives and do something good. Season 43, all of us did this. A million dollars is going to them, that’s it. Everybody, we made history, guys.”

Read: High School Seniors Carried Casket Of Veteran Who Had No One To Attend His Funeral

Making History on Multiple Accounts

Incredibly, he also set another record, yet again making “Survivor” history. Gabler completed the fire-making challenge in just 4 minutes and 9 seconds, faster than any other contestant.

Even more incredible than his generous donation to veterans, Gabler actually saves lives as a career path. He works as an aneurysm and trans-catheter heart valve specialist for ‘Edwards Lifesciences,’ a medical technology company. When asked about his job in an interview he disclosed that facing “high-pressure situations” regularly at work would be advantageous to his success on the show.

Although the U.S. military has a seemingly large budget, many people would likely be surprised to learn that very little of it goes back into the hands of service members and veterans. Instead, a large portion of the budget is dedicated to machinery and supplies. As a result, many service members return home, with mental or physical disabilities, yet still have to find work in order to help support their families.

Support in Place for Veterans

Fortunately, there is hope for some. Organizations like the VFW, DAV, and others exist, with volunteers known as VSO’s. These kindhearted individuals are generally veterans who help other veterans prepare paperwork and file claims for assistance from the VA to help veterans pay for their medical and other day-to-day expenses. There are also programs in which veterans can apply for home loans with reduced interest rates and more. Moreover, programs are available for spouses and children that include help with school supplies, clothing, and other basic essentials. Eligibility varies from person to person and is typically dependent upon the severity of the results of their time in the service.

People commonly point out how lucky veterans are to return home after war because many whom they served alongside did not. However, the general public rarely thinks of how many people come back with severe mental and physical disabilities that impact their daily lives. So much so that many cannot get jobs or require daily care and assistance. Alternately, it’s incredibly heartwarming to hear when people like Mike Gabler are able to make a powerful change and take advantage of that opportunity. Just one more kind soul doing his part to make the world a little brighter.

Keep Reading: Veteran Goes On ‘Antiques Roadshow’ To Get Rolex Appraised, Collapses After Learning Value


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  5. Mike Gabler: 5 Things To Know About The ‘Survivor’ Season 43 Winner.Hollywood Life. Eric Todisco. December 14, 2022.