Wheel of Fortune players have been buying vowels and filling in the blanks on “America’s game” since 1975. With stakes determined by the luck of the spin combined with contestants’ puzzle-solving prowess, it’s a formula that ensures pretty much anything can happen—including one winner who recently gave away his entire $145,000 prize earnings to charity.
That’s just what Encino, California resident Scott Kolbrenner did on the Wheel episode that aired March 18, 2021—and it was what he’d planned to do all along should he win.
“When I went on the show, I was doing it for the fun of it,” he told Good Morning America. “I said to my wife… ‘…Anything that I get, let’s give it to charity. We’re very fortunate. Let’s see if we can support some others who aren’t as fortunate as we are.”
The luck of the wheel was with Kolbrenner throughout the entire show. After scoring a $3,500 wedge, he landed next on the Express Wedge, which he parlayed into another winning answer.
Kolbrenner kept the momentum building, finishing the game with a total of $45,000 to ace out the other contestants. Along with the show’s pre-set letters, R, L, S, T, N, and E, Kolbrenner chose P, H, G, and O for his chance at solving the grand-prize puzzle in the category “What Are You Wearing?”
Once Vanna White was finished turning tiles, all only six letters remained hidden. The 10-second clock had barely begun ticking when Kolbrenner correctly guessed: “Flowing white gown.”
Pat Sajack revealed the bonus amount—$100,000. With winnings totaling $145,000, Kolbrenner became the fifth-biggest winner in Wheel’s 46-year history.
Kolbrenner split the booty between two local charities with which he’s long been affiliated: Uplift Family Services, a comprehensive behavioral health treatment provider (of which he is a board member), and Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, whose outreach supports thousands of California families facing food insecurity.
“While I hoped I would do okay, I never thought that anything like this could happen,” Kolbrenner told Yahoo News, “I got lucky that day and knew right away that I wanted to share my good fortune. The fun and memories from the day will stay with me forever, but the urgent need in our community cannot wait.”
In a statement from Uplift Family Services, Kolbrenner revealed that “his ‘good fortune’ came long before he ever spun the Wheel, having grown up an intact, secure family where he never had to worry about his next meal or for his safety.” He credits his grandfather with instilling the values of “charity and civic duty as a critical part of life.”