Growing up, Avi Gupta spent quality time with his grandmother by watching gameshows — The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune and, her favorite, Jeopardy! Her love of the fast-paced, knowledge-based game rubbed off on Avi. Years later, he’d fulfill his dream of becoming a contestant.
This past summer, Avi became Teen Jeopardy! champion. Now, 18-year-old Avi is sharing more than $10,000 of his winnings with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute for pancreatic cancer research in honor of his inspiration and the show’s host, Alex Trebek, who was diagnosed earlier this year.
Living a dream
Becoming a contestant on the show was a whirlwind. Avi took an online Jeopardy! test for fun. He didn’t expect that he would be selected to visit San Francisco for an audition. Weeks later, his mom received a call that he was invited to be a contestant on the show.
“Being on the show was something everyone imagines, but something you’d never think would happen,” he said. “It was like stepping into my TV. It was a dream come true.”
Avi had a few months to prepare. He spent more than 100 hours doing thumb exercises for buzzing in, researching popular Jeopardy! topics on the internet, practicing questions and reading books that are often asked. He credits his success on the show to his careful preparation and focus, but also to a lifelong passion for learning.
Above: Avi Gupta and Alex Trebek on the set of Jeopardy! (Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)
“I think growing up and watching Jeopardy! shaped the curiosity in me,” he said. “Alex Trebek was someone who always consistently stood for the importance of facts and knowledge.”
Trebek has been part of Avi’s life for as long as he can remember — an inspiration and a role model.
“When I heard of his diagnosis, I was devastated,” Avi said. “Not because I knew him personally, but because he’s played a big role in my life and the lives of millions of Americans.”
To honor his lifelong hero’s diagnosis, Avi donated $314 to the Knight Cancer Institute out of homage to his favorite number, Pi, which represents his passion for math and science.
Avi has donated $10,314 of his Jeopardy! winnings to pancreatic cancer research efforts at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
“I think scientists at the Knight Cancer Institute are winning this battle against cancer. We need to help them do more.” — Avi Gupta
“When I heard of Alex’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis, I couldn’t think of a better organization to partner with and raise awareness with than Dr. Druker and the Knight Cancer Institute,” he said. “I think scientists at the Knight Cancer Institute are winning this battle against cancer. We need to help them do more.”
Pancreatic cancer is one of the world’s toughest cancers with a low five-year survival rate. The cancer is often caught too late, and is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Avi’s gift will support cutting-edge treatments and research into the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer underway at the Knight Cancer Institute.
Above: Avi Gupta and Brian Druker, MD, director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute
“I feel very lucky to be in a position to contribute these funds of my own at the age of 18 and to use this platform to raise awareness,” Avi said. “We’ve all known someone who’s been affected by cancer. My hope is to bring everyone together to raise awareness, as well as funds, for early detection research.”
“I’ve felt incredibly privileged to have the experiences and education that I’ve had,” he said. “I’ve benefited so much from the world, and giving back is part of who I am.”