Alex Trebek, Humanitarian

Nov 10, 2020
As tributes pour in for Alex Trebek, they underline just how Jeopardy has provided decades of stimulating refuge from our worries for 30 minutes, five days a week. But the iconic Canadian TV host represented much more than that. Alex Trebek’s life and career have been filled with well-deserved awards and recognition, including a star in Canada’s Walk of Fame and inclusion into the Order of Canada.

And with all those achievements throughout his star-studded career, it’s easy for all his charity work to go under-reported. But it’s certainly not under-appreciated by the many this humble hero has helped. From the very beginning of his rise to fame, Alex Trebek also pursued a second career as a humanitarian. 

“Alex really cared about children,” says Dave Toycen, the former CEO of World Vision Canada, who was at the helm through most of Alex’s time as an ambassador.  “In the midst of his busy schedule he always made the time for those who were struggling with poverty. He was incredibly supportive, and always saw the mission above himself.”

World Vision’s connection with Alex Trebek began during the horrific Ethiopian famine in the 1980s. Alex was watching television and was moved by World Vision’s reports. He picked up the phone and asked how he could help. 

An awareness-raising trip to Ethiopia soon followed. And in one dramatic moment, as Alex visited a famine-affected community, a mother placed her baby in his arms and asked him to take her baby with him, sealing a lifetime commitment to help the most vulnerable globally. 

Watch this video tribute to Alex now: 

He never stopped helping. Over the years, Trebek travelled to many developing countries to learn about the challenges children were facing, taping awareness-raising reports and sharing his experiences with Canadians.

Alex genuinely cared for the needs of children. During a trip to Colombia in the early 1990s, he and a film crew came upon a group of boys doing drugs in one of the back alleys. His usual calm and controlled demeanor was visibly shaken. Meeting those children drove him to share the story with his viewers in a particularly passionate way. 

“When Alex lent his voice of support, he inspired people to act,” says Michael Messenger, President and CEO of World Vision Canada. “He was absolutely sincere in his motivation to help others, especially children. He was always a believer that people are open and willing to help others in need.” 

While it’s difficult to summarize the totality of Alex Trebek’s life and accomplishments, World Vision estimates that his influence has had a positive impact on well over one million children. That’s a legacy to be truly proud of and another reason to never forget a life and career dedicated to humanity.

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