The Winner of Oprah's Big Give Returns with a Surprise
April 08, 2011
In 2008, Harpo Productions debuted its first-ever primetime television series, Oprah's Big Give. It was a pressure-filled high-stakes reality show based on the idea of giving back. Ten contestants set out on a nationwide adventure to out-give each other. Every week, the nail-biting competition got tougher until it was down to the final three.
"The whole idea of the show, the Big Give, was to let people know how great it feels to give," Oprah says. "You know, I love giving things to people, but what I receive in return is far greater than even the gift that you give. That's the beauty of giving."
Before crowning the show's winner in the finale, Oprah revealed the Big Give's biggest surprise: The winner would go home with $1 million—half to give away, half to keep. In the end, the winner was Stephen Paletta, a small businessman and devoted father of three.
After getting a $1 million check, Stephen says he wanted to do something that would maintain Oprah's goals for the Big Give. "Reality TV shows are always about winning the money. You had no intention about money. What you wanted to do was create a movement," he says to Oprah. "You wanted to empower people ... to go and make a big difference."
Stephen says he gave some of the money to the charity he founded, the International Education Exchange, which connects students in America with students in Rwanda. He also supported his fellow Big Give contestant Eric's CAN-DO foundation, and Green Chimneys, an organization that helps at-risk children.
But Stephen's biggest project is just getting started.
After hearing from scores of people who asked him to donate some of his winnings to their favorite charities, Stephen says he wondered if there could be a way to make his winnings go even further. "I thought, 'What if I could do that? What if there's a way to actually put money in people's pocket and do exactly what Oprah Winfrey did for me?' Give them money and say, 'Give it to whatever you want.'"
Stephen says this prompted him to start GiveBack, an organization which allows people to easily start their own personal foundation or charitable savings account. A GiveBack user can donate directly to his or her foundation with a tax-deductible gift and give away the money to an accredited charity whenever they want. Or, when someone with a GiveBack account makes a purchase from one of the 450 participating national companies, that company will donate a percentage of the sale back to the person's foundation account.
"We've got every major company," Stephen says. "They're all participating. So do all your shopping through GiveBack.org, and I will tell you this: You'll have more money to give, and you'll change the world."
To get started, Stephen has a surprise for The Oprah Show's studio audience—they each are given a voucher to add $1,000 to their GiveBack account to give to the charity of their choice!
Viewers can to go to GiveBack.org to find out how they also could win $1,000 to give away.