The final contestants on Oprah's Big Give: Cameron, Brandi and Stephen

It's the Oprah's Big Give finale, and only three contestants remain—Stephen, the family man; Brandi, the pageant queen; and Cameron, the young, self-made millionaire.

In their final mission, The Shirt Off Your Back, they must give big in Oprah's hometown of Chicago with no seed money and only 48 hours. They'll be working as a team, but they'll be judged individually when they face the judges for the last time.
Bob Muzikowski at the Chicago Hope Academy

Immediately, Stephen suggests calling his old friend Bob Muzikowski, the founder of Chicago Hope Academy. "It's a college and life preparatory school. We're preparing kids to go out and be leaders," Bob says. "Chicago Hope is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students who couldn't afford go to a school of this caliber."

Bob tells the givers that the one thing the school needs is an athletic field because sports keep kids healthy and off the streets. Unfortunately, it's going to cost $100,000 that they don't have.
Stephen, Brandi and Cameron can't agree on a give.

Cameron and Brandi don't think Chicago Hope Academy is the best idea for their final Big Give. "Stephen looked through his Rolodex, called an old friend and kind of forced this school upon us," Brandi says.

Brandi suggests helping Shriners Hospital for Children, and she and Cameron suggest having every Miss Illinois titleholder perform.

Stephen is not impressed. "This is the biggest challenge we have," he says. "If worse come to worst, let's set that up as a fallback. But to tell me that's what you want to do as the biggest give, it's a little bit insulting. We have to do better than that!"
Oprah's Big Give judge Jamie Oliver

After a long brainstorming session, judge Jamie Oliver drops in on the contestants for a progress report.

When the givers tell Jamie they're having trouble agreeing on a give, he begins to worry. "[Cameron's] entrepreneurial. [Brandi's] incredible with people. [Stephen's] a bit of everything. So split the group into those attributes," he says. "Don't overcomplicate. You have 36 hours. Be realistic and overdeliver. Don't go for something too big and underdeliver."
Stephen delivers the good news to Chicago Hope Academy.

The team decides that since Stephen wants to help the school, they'll get behind him. Taking Jamie's advice, Stephen heads to Chicago Hope Academy, while Cameron works the phone for fundraising.

When Cameron gets in touch with Blue Man Productions, they offer to donate $100,000 to the school and a performance by Blue Man Group. When Cameron text messages Stephen with the news, Stephen tells the kids in the school auditorium, and they go wild.

Cameron is disappointed that Stephen made the announcement without him. "Stephen makes the decision to tell the kids…while I'm back at the hotel busting my butt to makes things happen."
Shriners Hospital for Children

Meanwhile, Brandi decides to head out on her own. "It's my final chance to prove to the guys that I'm here to win. I'm the last female standing," she says. "If I have to put an 'I' in team, I will."

Eventually, Cameron joins Brandi, even though it means he will miss the lunch with the kids at Chicago Hope Academy. The pair decides to give big to Shriners Hospital for Children, which provides kids with medical care at no charge, regardless of financial need.

Brandi recruits local chef Anthony Reyes to donate a free cooking class to the kids at Shriners.

"Brandi was like a crazy woman on the phone," Anthony says. "'I need you to do this, I need you to do that.' And I'm like, 'Okay, slow down. I'll be there. Whatever you need me to do, I'll take care of for you.'"
Cameron's stuck in traffic.

While Cameron and Brandi are off on their own, Stephen serves lunch to the Chicago Hope students before the Blue Man Group performance. Phil Stanton, one of the Blue Man Group founders and the man responsible for the donation, is at the school and wants to meet Cameron, who originally set up the show. But when Stephen calls, Cameron says he's stuck in traffic and may arrive late.

"Blue Man Productions is donating over $100,000 plus the show," Stephen says. "You've got to show these people respect and show up on time. It's an embarrassment to me, and it's an embarrassment to Oprah's Big Give."
Blue Man Group

The Blue Man Group is a hit! The kids love the show, and though Brandi and Cameron arrive late, all three contestants are thrilled with the end result.

"During the performance, I looked at the back of the room, and all the judges were there," Cameron says. "I hope they know that I was the one who made it happen."
Stephen announces the donations.

After the performance, there's more good news in store for Chicago Hope Academy. Stephen announces that they've raised $60,000 to put toward baseball fields!

Blue Man Productions donates another $50,000 for the fields and $50,000 to go toward music and arts programs. Plus, Fender Musical Instruments donates 15 brand new guitars, and The Gibson Foundation gives a Baldwin upright piano.

"It's unbelievable that they put that together in 48 hours," Bob says. "We had no idea they were coming, and to help us like that is just beyond anything we dreamed of."
Chef Anthony Reyes gives a cooking lesson at Shriners Hospital for Children.

After the show, Brandi, Cameron and Stephen head to Shriners Hospital for Children, where Brandi shares her personal struggle with scoliosis. "I stayed in the hospital a lot during my childhood, and I know what it feels to be stuck in a hospital bed, wanting your friends to visit and wanting to go outside and hang out with everyone," she says.

While Anthony gives his cooking lesson, Cameron and Stephen sneak out and spend the extra $10,000 that Cameron raised on a roomful of goodies for the kids, including instruments, sports equipment, books and DVDs.

At the end of the lesson, Anthony offers to come back every month to give cooking classes.

"Getting the community to come together and do something little once a month makes a real difference to places like this," judge Jamie Oliver says.
Jennifer Aniston on Oprah's Big Give

Back at Oprah's Big Give headquarters, the seven eliminated contestants— Marlene, Angelo, Carlana, Kim, Eric, Sheg and Rachael—are back for the finale. But before the winner is revealed, actress Jennifer Aniston stops by with a big announcement.

"You didn't really think that you would come to a show called the Big Give and they'd send you home empty-handed?" Jennifer announces that each of the eliminated players will receive $30,000 for their efforts. "Thank you for doing this and inspiring everybody," she says.

"Not one person had any idea that there would be a prize at the end. They only wanted the chance to really give big," Oprah says. "Nobody in this group ever asked what they would get in the end."
Stephen, Brandi and Cameron open their envelopes.

It's time to reveal the winner! "I know that it was grueling on the road," Oprah says to the final three. "I have so much respect for you because never once did you ask what was in it for you."

As always, the judges looked at creativity, leadership presentation and accomplishments. But this week, there is one final twist: There will be no plane tickets inside these envelopes. Instead, inside the Biggest Giver's envelope will be $1 million—$500,000 to keep and $500,000 to use for more Big Gives. The other two finalists will receive $100,000 each.
Stephen is the Biggest Giver.

And the Biggest Giver is…Stephen!

"It was such an incredible honor and privilege to be part of this show and to be chosen as the Biggest Giver among all of these wonderful people," he says.

Stephen says he was shocked to learn about the $1 million prize. "We came on the show to get nothing, but to give ourselves … when you threw out that million dollars, I just was blown away," he says.

In the spirit of the show, Stephen must give half of his prize away—and he's already planning what to do. "I've been building schools in Africa, and so we're going to continue to build some schools and libraries and partner schools here in the United States with schools there in Africa," he says.

He is also working with another Big Giver, Eric, who he became close friends with on the show. "Eric's been working in the Gulf Coast," he says. "We're going back down to build some more houses and finish some houses. There are so many people, two and a half years later, who still don't have a place to live."

Stephen says he also wants to give back to his hometown of Bedford, New York, after being inspired by The Big Family Reunion Challenge. "There are so many great organizations in my hometown I never knew about, and I want to go back and serve them."

Just as he accomplished on the show, Stephen hopes to take the prize money and turn it into many millions to give away over the next several years. "I'm hoping I can deflect this light and show it to the great social entrepreneurs," he says. "To people who are in the grass roots making a difference because I'm not really the Biggest Giver from this show. The Biggest Givers were the people that I got to meet."

Stephen says his all-time favorite moment during Oprah's Big Give came by chance in Atlanta. After a day spent working at Zoo Atlanta, Stephen volunteered at the Atlanta Union Mission. After first making a donation, Stephen stayed to serve food and even hit the kitchen to wash dishes. That's where he met Atlantis .

Atlantis told Stephen about his life, which included time in the military, four children and a drug addiction. At the time they met, Atlantis had been clean for seven months. Stephen says Atlantis told him something he would never forget. "No matter what you're going through, there's always somebody out there going through something a little bit harder," Atlantis said. "So whatever you're going through, just count it as a blessing. You can learn from every single thing."

Now Atlantis has been clean for 17 months, has a job at a Waffle House, is taking online classes to become a history teacher…and is about to get one more big surprise from Stephen!
Atlantis picks out an Explorer.

When he was working with Atlantis, Stephen says he asked him what he could do to help.

"You blew me away because you said, 'Nothing—you've already done it.' You said it was just about spending time. And I've got to tell you, spending time with you was the best moment of the Big Give for me," Stephen says. "But ever since I left there. I said, 'There's got to be something else I can give this guy.'"

To help him get to and from his job, Ford is giving Atlantis a new car…and they're even letting him pick out which one he wants! After weighing his six choices—Focus, Fusion, Mustang, Escape Hybrid, Edge and Explorer—Atlantis chooses the Explorer.

"It's a beautiful car," Atlantis says. "A very beautiful car."
Runners-up Brandi and Cameron

Big Give runners-up, Brandi and Cameron, agree that even though they didn't win, the experience was life-changing. "I was really proud of what I accomplished," Cameron says. "I never knew there was a million dollars, so I don't feel like I've lost anything."

Brandi says her experiences taught her the true value of giving. "It's really about rallying these communities together, connecting with people and sharing a story. That's really what gets everyone involved," she says. "It's an obligation, and it's also an honor to be part of that."

For their first postshow challenge, Brandi and Cameron say they will continue working as a team. First, they are going to pledge money to Sir Richard Branson's charity, Virgin Unite. "[It] promotes entrepreneurship in Africa," Cameron says. "With my business contacts and everything else, I'm going to try and turn it into a lot more money."

Brandi says she also would like to work in her hometown, especially with the military.

Don't Brandi and Cameron have any plans to spend any of their $100,000 on themselves? "It was money that we didn't expect, really," she says. "I mean, it doesn't even exist."

Special thanks to all those who helped during this episode of Oprah's Big Give .


Next Story