Celebrities are busy people. Celebrities who are actively in filming and fighting a disease are even busier — but that hasn’t stopped one favorite game show host from taking time to reach out to one of his biggest, most concerned fans.
As any avid followers of Jeopardy! know, Trebek has been fighting a battle with cancer. He’s still holding onto his show host position, but one fan in particular has had a difficult time with Trebek’s diagnosis, and his mother knew that if they could just hear from Trebek, it would help.
“I wanted to get Alex to cheer him up,” mom Debbie Stevens told the New York Daily News. “I thought that would make him happy.”
Stevens’ son, 32-year-old Michael Kneeter, has autism and loves game shows.
“I like to watch ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune,'” he told New York Daily News.
But how does one get a hold of a famous person? Stevens set out on the internet to figure it out.
She discovered that Trebek’s son, Matthew, runs his own restaurant called Oso. She reached out to him, hoping to make a human connection that would get them one step closer to talking to Trebek.
According to CNN, Stevens called Oso and asked for Matthew, saying it was “personal.” Matthew responded well to the call, and Stevens made her request known.
Kneeter told Matthew that he hopes his father “feels better,” and Stevens also sent Trebek a card. It had two purposes: One, it was a get-well wish, but it was also a request for contact.
On Oct. 18, the call directly from Trebek himself came — but unfortunately, Stevens was in the bathroom and missed it. Trebek left a message that has since been replayed many times.
“This is a message for Michael,” Trebek started. “My name is Alex Trebek. It is Friday, about 6 o’clock your time. My son, Matthew, who has a restaurant in North Harlem told me that you and your mom had been in contact and you’re fans of the show, and I just wanted to thank you for that, and I appreciate it.”
“I hope you’re well. Maybe someday if you manage to get to Los Angeles, you can come to a taping of the program. That would be great. Hopefully, I’ll still be around hosting it.”
But a recording isn’t the same thing as a live call. Desperate to get Kneeter a few moments of personal chat with the game show host, Stevens contacted Trebek’s son Matthew again, asking for a second chance.
“I was almost in tears,” Stevens admitted. “He said, ‘Stay near the phone. I’ll text him.’ And in less than five minutes, he called again.”
For 10 minutes mother and son talked to Trebek about the show, hobbies, siblings and other things. Kneeter got the reassurance Stevens was hoping for when Trebek assured him that he wasn’t going to give up.
“I’m going to keep fighting,” Trebek told the two, according to Stevens. “With God’s grace and prayers from people like you, and good wishes from folks everywhere, I’m going to come through like you.”
“He’s an amazing person. He knows how many people love watching the show,” the grateful mother said. “He doesn’t want to let people down. As sick as he is, he wanted to assure Michael that he is okay.”
“It wasn’t rushed,” she said of the call, according to CNN. “He was really concerned and caring for Michael.”
Even Kneeter’s siblings found the gesture remarkable. Lisa Stevens told CNN that the call was moving.
“It was incredible how he reached them,” she said. “It was very heartwarming that under the circumstances Alex Trebek is going through, he was able to reach out to one of his biggest fans following his show for many years.”
As for Trebek, he seems happy to indulge his fans whenever he is able.
“I get these kinds of calls quite often now, where somebody who has special needs feels that they would be helped by talking to me, and it’s no great imposition on me, to tell you the truth,” he told CNN. “If I’m in a position to do it, I do.”
“They’re looking for some kind of reassurance I think, and if I can provide that I’m happy to do it. The message I try to get across to all of them is, let’s agree to be survivors against whatever ailment is afflicting us.”
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