"Jeopardy!" stars are asking fans to play along during the Tournament of Champions Finals – for a good cause.
It's been an emotional year for the game show. In January, the 2018 Teachers Tournament winner Larry Martin died of pancreatic cancer. In March, host Alex Trebek revealed he, too, was battling the disease, and this fall shared he had entered a second round of chemotherapy.
Now "Jeopardy!" alumni are organizing a fundraiser for the cause, encouraging viewers to play along at home during Thursday and Friday's finals episodes and donate $1 for each correct response they come up with to the Lustgarten Foundation for pancreatic cancer research.
And hey, if folks want to double down, so be it. "Some folks are doing variations on (giving) extra money for the Daily Doubles or for Final Jeopardy. Some people jokingly said they're going to do $1 for every incorrect answer they get because they're not very good at the show," chuckles Tournament player Steven Grade, who lost to James Holzhauer in Tuesday's episode.
By Friday afternoon donations to the fundraiser hit $32,000. Fans can pledge donations here.
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As the tournament – among the most-watched "Jeopardy!" shows of the year – ends, fans can share their donations with the hashtag #WeLoveYouAlex, which went viral this week after contestant Dhruv Gaur wrote a heartfelt message to Trebek instead of a Final Jeopardy answer on Monday's show.
The contestant-led charitable play-along came together on a group chat among a group of "Jeopardy!" champions, Grade says.
It's the same outlet five-time champion Gilbert Collins first approached his "Jeopardy!" pals with the idea of wearing purple ribbons on the show in support of pancreatic cancer awareness.
The #Jeopardy Tournament of Champions competitors are organizing a charitable play along to help fight pancreatic cancer. See below for details, play along, spread the word, and let’s do what we can to help win this fight. pic.twitter.com/tP9CG49paP— Steven Grade (@ask_Steven) November 5, 2019
This year's "Jeopardy!" tournament players Lindsey Schulz, Gaur, Kyle Jones, Josh Hill, Eric R. Backes, and Anneke Garcia and Holzhauer have been promoting the fundraiser on Twitter, along with support from former champs Buzzy Cohen and Brad Rutter.
Grade recalls his experience with Trebek taping the finals two months ago in Culver City, Calif.
"He was still the same old Alex. He’s the best at what he does," says the Atlanta-based sports industry consultant. "But we all knew that there was this cloud hanging over our heads. The day before the tournament started (Trebek) told us what he announced the next day, which was that he was going to need to undergo a second round of chemotherapy because his numbers had gone back up following the completion of his first round. So the importance and the gravity of the occasion, if it wasn’t already there, it was certainly there after that."
And sure, Grade has a few regrets about his loss on Tuesday's show.
"I would have liked for it to have gone a little bit differently," he admits. "There’s a couple of clues I’ve been beating myself over the head over for the past couple of months. But going back and looking at it, I think I played better than I thought."
Overall, Grade says this season of "Jeopardy!" has become more meaningful than trivia wins and cash prizes.
"My memory of (this tournament) isn't going to be losing on 'Jeopardy,'" he says. "It’s going to be all of the stuff that we as a group are able to do to hopefully help end pancreatic cancer."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Jeopardy' stars ask fans to play along for pancreatic cancer research