Skip to Content

‘Survivor’ winner donates $1 million winnings to help veterans in need: “There are people who need that money more”

The long-running reality TV show Survivor has just crowned 52-year-old heart valve specialist Mike Gabler from Kingswood, Texas, as its season 43 Sole Survivor.

But besides besting other contestants in the show, the “Alligabler” is also making history for different reasons.

He’s the show’s second oldest Sole Survivor (Bob Crowley from Season 17 is the oldest winner at 57) and the first Survivor winner to announce his plans to donate his prize of one million dollars to a cause.

Mike Gabler, winner of this season's Survivor in the Fiji Islands


Mike has mentioned his desire to give away his prize money to deserving veterans. Now that he’s officially the show’s winner, he has a chance to make this plan a reality.

This season, Survivor went back to the Fiji Islands. In its three-hour season finale, contestants Cassidy Clark, Owen Knight, and Mike Gabler made it to the final three. Mike won after a 7-1-0 vote from the jurors. That was also the first time his name was written down throughout the season.

Jeff Probst announcing Survivor 43's Sole Survivor


In an interview filmed right after his win, Mike told Survivor host Jeff Probst that there are people who need this money more. He donated the one million dollars to honor his father, Robert Gabler, who was a Green Beret.

It’s a unique and generous gesture, especially because Mike came from a humble background. According to Mike, he considers himself “fortunate enough to come from a military family,” but they’re not wealthy.

Mike's dad was a Green Beret


Being a part of Survivor is truly the chance and the adventure of a lifetime. He’s all praises and admiration for the show and its impact on him and the other contestants. All the lessons they’ve learned are priceless and have made them all better.

After his stint with Survivor, Mike now appreciates how ‘rich’ he truly is. He has an amazing life, family, and friends back home. He also admitted he needs to work on being a better husband, father, brother, and son, which he can’t wait to do when he goes home.

A lot to be thankful for after Mike's stint with Survivor


Amazing things happen on Survivor; that’s why many people watch it and why it’s on its 43rd season. Giving the million-dollar prize to help veterans in need is another amazing thing to happen on the show.

It’s a significant amount of money that can support veterans recovering from PTSD and other psychiatric problems and help curb the suicide epidemic. 

Before joining the show, Mike talked to a good friend, who also happened to be a veteran. His friend asked what if he won Survivor?

It got Mike thinking. He’s built a nice financial set-up and still has a few years before retirement. The prize money can surely help pay for the house and his kid’s college education.

But with all that’s happening in the world right now, Mike can’t take the money in good conscience. He can’t ignore the veterans who need help. So many men in his life are veterans: his dad, uncles, and many of the guys he went to high school with.

Mike did not say anything about his plans to donate during the final Tribal Council.


According to Mike, these veterans kept him going during those challenging and long days when he wanted to tap out. Thinking about them lit a fire that drove him day in and day out, in the rain, in the sun, or in the cold.

These veterans are his heroes. Although he never served, having the opportunity to serve them with this significant financial contribution fills Mike’s heart.

When asked why he didn’t bring up giving away his winnings at the final Tribal Council, Mike said it crossed his mind. And then he immediately felt ashamed for even thinking about it.

He knew he needed to win Survivor on his own merit. He chose to announce his plans after to make it count as a real win. Knowing his wife is on board with his plan to donate his prize also makes the victory sweeter! Watch the video here:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.