Wheel of Fortune contestant Scott Kolbrenner pledged to donate his entire winnings from Thursday's episode to two charities in Los Angeles. Kolbrenner, who grew up in Hewlett, New York, won $145,000 in one episode of the long-running game show. Kolbrenner, 50, said he was inspired to donate his winnings by his late maternal grandfather, who taught him the importance of volunteerism at an early age.
Kolbrenner won $45,000 during regular gameplay, then participated in the bonus round. The clue was "What are you wearing?" and he instantly solved the puzzle, "Flowing White Gown." He got a $100,000 card, so his total winnings grew to $145,000. Later, the Wheel of Fortune team tweeted that Kolbrenner pledged to donate his winnings to Uplift Family Services and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
Scott has pledged to donate all of his winnings to Uplift Family Services and L.A. Regional Food Bank! Way to give back! What a generous gesture! Such good fortune all the way around.— Wheel of Fortune (@WheelofFortune) March 19, 2021
Before the episode aired, Kolbrenner told Newsday that his late grandfather Paul Safro told him it would be great for him to give back if he became successful. "He was very civic-minded, and said to me from an early age, 'You know, I'd love for you to be a success in business and with your family, but you're really incomplete if you're not also contributing to your community.' And it stuck with me," Kolbrenner said.
Kolbrenner lives in Los Angeles and is the managing director for the Houlihan Lokey investment firm. He serves on the board of Uplift Family Services. The children helped by the organizations he donated to "are, through no fault of their own, in very difficult situations," Kolbrenner told Newsday. "And whenever I hear their stories, it just reminds me how lucky I am. My parents, we were an intact family unit, and I never had to worry about my next meal. These kids have struggles I can't even imagine."
During the coronavirus pandemic, Kolbrenner began watching Wheel of Fortune regularly as an escape from the sad news. When he heard they were searching for contestants in Southern California, Kolbrenner's wife Caryn suggested he try out. He sent a short video and filled out an application. He then participated in a Zoom interview that included a practice Wheel of Fortune show. "I thought I had blown it because I didn't win a lot of the puzzles, but then a couple of days later I got an email that said, 'Your taping day is November 5th. We look forward to seeing you,'" he recalled. "I couldn't believe it!"