Merrick-raised pop star Debbie Gibson won nearly $96,000 for an animal-rescue group on Wednesday’s episode of ABC’s prime-time “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune.”
Gibson competed against fashion maven Tim Gunn, playing for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and actor Luis Guzman, playing for the Cabot, Vermont community group and food pantry Neighbors in Action. After losing the first game to Gunn, the '80s hitmaker won game 2 and advanced to the bonus round. Correctly deducing the phrase “I was hoping you’d say that,” Gibson won $50,000 in addition to her $45,750 from regular play, raising a total of $95,750 for California’s 2nd Chance Dog Rescue aka RockNRoll Rescue on social media.
In a promo video released Monday, Gibson, 53, said she had “encountered this incredible organization when I was on social media, just, like, trying to save a dog,” and she offered Joe Altieri, one of the group’s board members, her support. “He’s so passionate,” she said. “He really believes dogs are the most noble beings on Earth, and being a dog mom of three dogs, I have to agree. And this would be life-altering money for Joe and he could save so many more dogs. I’m so excited to be playing for them today.”
Wednesday before the show, the 1988 Sanford H. Calhoun High School graduate explained on Instagram she was trying to save a pit bull, Henry, “less than 24 hours away from euthanasia when I saw him highlighted with an urgent plea” online. “It took a village but we got him out of the kill shelter. He was then given a 6 week window to live as he was diagnosed with cancer. Well… after 2 years on Joe’s ranch, defying all odds, Henry just crossed the rainbow bridge so it is so fitting to be playing in honour [sic] of Henry and all the worthy dogs looking for a safe place to land and for Joe and all the work he does to save one dog at a time.”
She urged, “If you cannot care for your pet, responsibly re-home them. But dumping them on a highway or at a shelter is cruel and millions of animals are being put down each year.”
“How do you say thank you for this kind of kindness?” wrote Altieri, 59, an actor-producer and longtime animal-rescue activist, Thursday on Instagram. “It’s moments like this, when you realize that no language has the words to express this level of gratitude.” Commented Gibson, “You do the day in day out work! You and the pups deserve everything and I’m so honored that my love of music and my career allowed me this opportunity to contribute in this way!”
Gibson’s representative did not respond to a Newsday request for comment.
Early in the episode, in response to host Pat Sajak saying musicians can impact people’s lives, the singer responded that, “Everything moved so quick[ly] when I was a teenager. But now I really take it in,” adding that she recently was onstage performing her 1989 No. 1 single “Lost in Your Eyes” “and I was, like, ‘How many collective memories to this song are in this room, including my own?’ And it’s so incredible to kind of be a part of the soundtrack of people’s lives.”
Gibson, who released her first Christmas album, “Winterlicious,” last year, plays three holiday shows at Manhattan’s Gramercy Theatre Thursday, Friday and Saturday.