‘Wheel of Fortune’ Contestant Recalls Winning $145K and Donating It to Charity

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

From the lengthy application process to auditioning to the competition itself, being a Wheel of Fortune contestant is no small feat. Around a million people audition for the game show every year, and only 600 or so are chosen to compete.

Those who find themselves standing in the presence of Pat Sajak and Vanna White with the iconic wheel before them have already jumped through a great many hoops to get there. And those who manage to outwit their fellow competitors and take home the prize? At that point, they’ve earned every penny of their winnings.

When Scott Kolbrenner found himself in this situation, however, he had other ideas for his prize money. Rather than keep the $145,000 he earned, Kolbrenner gave it all away. In a recent edition of Wheel of Fortune’s Winner’s Circle, fans were reminded of the contestant’s unusual story.

As it turns out, his philanthropic act wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. On the contrary, Scott Kolbrenner and his wife agreed to the arrangement before he ever stepped foot on set. “I was looking to come on the Wheel of Fortune, really just for the fun of the experience,” Kolbrenner explained. “And I said to my wife, ‘If I happen to be so lucky as to win something, let’s give it away.'”

‘Wheel of Fortune’ Contestant Scott Kolbrenner Explains Giving His Winnings to Charity

The plan was so well thought out by the Kolbrenners, in fact, that they already had two charities in mind with which to gift the winnings. “There were two organizations that have been very special to us,” said Scott Kolbrenner. “Pacific Clinics, who I’ve been lucky enough to volunteer with [for] the last 20 years. And the other is the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, who I’ve worked with as well.”

As if the act itself wasn’t heartwarming enough, the Wheel of Fortune contestant recalled watching the confetti rain from the ceiling and feeling excitement – not for himself, but for those he would help with the $145,000 prize.

“As the confetti fell down, I knew this is going to have a huge impact,” Kolbrenner said. “Our hope was that our contribution would amplify the message of what Uplift and the L.A. Regional Food Bank do, and that has absolutely been the case.”

Scott Kolbrenner found neither fame nor fortune in his time on Wheel of Fortune, but those impacted by his donation will never forget the unexpected kindness. And to this day, Kolbrenner remains grateful for what he was able to accomplish with his Wheel of Fortune success.

“I just want to say thank you to Wheel of Fortune,” Kolbrenner said. “The whole day was filled with kindness, and the money that we won allowed us to amplify that kindness. So, thank you, Wheel of Fortune.”