One of the last Jeopardy! winners gave a tearful, personal thanks to Alex Trebek

The world lost one of its best beloved television icons over the weekend. Alex Trebek, the host of Jeopardy! passed away at age 80 of pancreatic cancer. His cancer journey, which began in March 2019, served as an inspiration for millions, with Trebek sharing messages of hope and resilience throughout his treatments and continuing to host the show for as long as he could.

Many people have posted tributes to the famously upbeat host, including an in-person thanks from a Jeopardy! episode that aired just three days before Trebek passed.

After being named champion of the show, which was taped in August, 37-year-old Burt Thakur explained what being on Jeopardy! meant to him. Trebek asked if there was anyone special cheering him on at home, and Thakur, fighting back tears, replied:


"You know, here's a true story, man. I grew up, I learned English because of you. And so, my grandfather, who raised me—I'm gonna get tears right now—I used to sit on his lap and watch you every day so it's a pretty special moment for me, man. So thank you very much."

According to TODAY, Trebek had a humorous response to Thakur's touching story. "Without skipping a beat he said, 'I too sat on my grandfather's leg, but he taught me swear words!'" Thakur told the outlet, laughing.

"My grandfather would always look at Alex and say, 'That's a good man and one day you're going to meet him and shake his hand,'" Thakur told TODAY.

Thakur said Trebek was "an absolute gentleman and professional" when he met him. "He was so witty and funny," Thakur told TODAY. "Alex Trebek is a significant reason why I am the way I am."

Judging by his social media posts, Thakur is a kind and humble gentleman, so that makes perfect sense.

Even fans who never got to meet Trebek in person shared their gratitude to the man who they had watched for years.

Kazeem Famuyide wrote, "Alex Trebek did nothing but make you feel cool for being smart for 30 minutes every day for 36 years. Not many better ways to live a life."

Canadian comic strip artist Kate Beaton explained how he felt like part of the family. "Alex Trebek made you feel smart and proud, smarter than your dad or your sister or whoever in the never ending family tournament - or ready to reclaim the crown, and he was always on your side, he was part of the family. He was part of ours."

Two-time Battle Rap World Champion Adam Ferrone wrote, "Alex Trebek's death hit me more devastatingly than any celebrity death this year, maybe because I spent so much time consuming his content or maybe because he just seemed like a really decent, smart, curious man. RIP."

"Alex Trebek made us all feel smart and eager to learn without being condescending," wrote Fawn Moscato. "He was upbeat and enthusiastic and always treated his guests with respect. Truly no one else like him on tv!"

Indeed, those of us who grew up watching Jeopardy! with our families could always rely on that half an hour to be soothing yet exciting, curiosity-inducing, and educational. When you guessed correctly, you felt like a brainiac. When you had no idea, you felt better when the smart people on the show missed some, too. I always wondered how much Trebek himself learned while making that show. He had to be a walking encyclopedia by the end.

But Trebek's legacy will be in who he was, not what he knew. The Canadian who became an American citizen in 1998 was a philanthropist and activist who helped with many different charitable efforts from the USO to education to improving the lives of children in developing countries. He was a father of two and a breeder of racehorses. He was a kind and inclusive man who made everyone who came on his show feel welcome and everyone watching at home feel a part of it. And in his final months, he was an inspiration to us all.

"I'm not afraid of dying," he told CTV News in October 2019. "I've lived a good life, a full life, and I'm nearing the end of that life ... if it happens, why should I be afraid [of] that?"

What a beautiful example. The world will miss you, Alex.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 06.28.21


After Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, was pursued and shot by three white residents while jogging through a Georgia suburb, Ellen and Patrick Miller* of San Diego hung a Black Lives Matter flag in front of their house. It was a small gesture, but something tangible they could do.

Like many people, they wanted to both support the BLM movement and bring awareness about racism to members of their community. Despite residing in a part of the county notoriously rumored to be marred by white supremacists and their beliefs, their neighbors didn't say much about it—at first.

Recently, though, during a short window when both Ellen and Patrick were out of the house, someone sliced the flag in two and left the remains in their yard.

via Paula Fitzgibbons

They were upset, but not surprised.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."