Updated October 18, 2019 - 12:34 pm
As a couple that came from different walks of life, “Jeopardy!” champion James Holzhauer and his wife, Melissa, know the difference between society’s “haves” and “have-nots.”
He grew up in an upper-middle class suburb in Illinois. She grew up in a trailer park in Flint, Michigan.
But they do share a desire to give back to the community.
That’s why they donated $25,000 to Rancho High School on Friday and called on others in the Las Vegas Valley community to give to impoverished schools.
“We have a lot of ability to help now,” Melissa Holzhauer said, standing on the school’s dilapidated football field. “I want to direct that toward children who also come from backgrounds that aren’t as advantageous as some.”
The “Jeopardy!” star is using his fame and money to call on others to give. Holzhauer captured national attention after winning $2.4 million in his jaw-dropping 32-game winning streak on the popular TV game show.
Melissa Holzhauer was inspired to act after seeing a news story about Rancho’s football field — which is hard as a rock and could lead to serious injury. It is one of at least three that the district has deemed unplayable.
The couple hopes the donation is a first step to level the field for students in poorer areas of the city.
“A lot of the kids from where I’m from have different outcomes than the kids where from Melissa’s from, and you know so much of that is just situational,” James Holzhauer said. “You know, it’s things that could be prevented if people put the attention in the places where they needed it.”
Although the school anticipates the district will fix the field, Rancho has a variety of other facility needs, including a broken soccer scoreboard and a raspy speaker system.
And that’s just for athletics. The school’s band, which has been invited to a prestigious event in Chicago, needs over $30,000 by December to pay for the trip.
The couple also gifted school administrators a few drawings from their 4-year-old daughter that depict people enjoying athletic fields outside.
“A lot of other schools have a lot of support form the community,” said Gabrielle Crawford, assistant principal and athletic administrator. “We just want … not to be forgotten here in the oldest part of the city. We have a lot of kids that don’t have anything, and we want them to be able to play sports.”