IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Jeopardy!' champ James Holzhauer makes pancreatic cancer donation in Alex Trebek's name

The donation of $1,109.14 is a reference to his daughter's birthday: Nov. 9, 2014, organizers said.
Image: James Holzhauer on Jeopardy!
James Holzhauer and his winnings after 32 rounds on Jeopardy!Courtesy of Jeopardy Productions Inc.

"Jeopardy!" champion James Holzhauer made a donation to a pancreatic cancer research walk in his hometown in honor of Alex Trebek.

Trebek, the longtime host of the popular trivia television show, announced in March he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, but said he intended to keep working. In May, he announced he was in "near remission."

Holzhauer recently donated $1,109.14, to the Naperville Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk in Naperville, Illinois, where he used to live. His donation was accompanied by the message, "For Alex Trebek and all the other survivors."

The amount — $1,109.14 — is a reference to his daughter Natasha's birthday: Nov. 9, 2014, organizers said.

Ann Zediker, a Naperville resident who is raising funds for the July 14 walk, was among the 14.5 million people who watched Holzhauer on June 3 as the professional gambler lost for the first time after 32 consecutive wins. Holzhauer won $2,464,216 in prize money and left with the 16 highest one-day scores in the show’s history.

He fell $56,484 short of the all-time record set by Ken Jennings.

Hours before the episode aired, Zediker said she looked up Holzhauer on Facebook, where she found what she believed was his email address and invited him to attend the walk.

"There was truly a daily excitement and buzz going on because of James," Zediker told NBC News on Thursday. "I figured it would be a perfect time to invite him."

Aside from Naperville, they shared something else in common: They both knew someone who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Zediker said she lost her father, Phil Pagano, to the disease.

Days later, Zediker said Holzhauer responded to her email. Zediker congratulated the hometown hero on his success and told him he had the support of the community, where he has become a household name.

"It was so awesome to see his winning and to see how he inspired kids of all ages in Naperville," including her three teenage children, Zediker said. "It brought the whole town together."

Holzhauer told her that he couldn't attend the walk but would make a donation.

"I never asked him for money," Zediker said. "Although it was an extremely generous donation."

The walk raises funds for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. The nonprofit dedicates 100 percent of donations to research into the aggressive cancer.

According to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of the major cancers with 91 percent of patients dying within five years of a diagnosis. It is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths.