Florida woman Alexis Kimball failed to win any money during her first appearance, but she was invited back to try again. DeGeneres was so touched by her dream of founding an animal rescue that she fixed the outcome of Kimball’s second ‘Holey Roller’ game attempt.
Alexis Kimball of Jacksonville is “a huge, huge Ellen fan, probably the biggest.”
So the 32-year-old got tickets to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the comic’s daytime talk show, and flew to California just to be in the audience. What happened next was beyond her wildest dreams.
Kimball ultimately made two separate appearances on the show, two weeks apart, being called to the stage both times to play the Holey Roller game, which typically involves rolling a small ball across the stage to a target hole while blindfolded. Although she twice failed to master the game, DeGeneres, touched by Kimball’s goal to found an animal rescue, sent her home from the second appearance with $10,000 and a trip to the Bahamas.
The first show aired two weeks ago; the second on Monday.
“I was at a loss for words, I am still in total shock,” said Kimball, advertising sales and marketing director at Talk 100.3 FM in Jacksonville.
Other audience members that day who Kimball has kept up with on Facebook told her she was the “biggest Ellen fan there.” Her fan status was clear to the show staff who select audience members to come on stage and participate in games.
“I was very emotional,” she said.
Kimball’s friends and family got involved too, holding watch parties.
She was hardly disappointed at her failure to win Holey Roller because she got to meet DeGeneres and received a 65-inch TV. But then the show asked her back, paying for her hotel and airfare. DeGeneres was apparently disappointed that Kimball didn’t win her first Holey Roller round.
“I felt really bad so I wanted to give her one more chance,” she said on the second show, before calling Kimball to the stage to sit in a chair right beside her. “You didn’t win the money, but you got a party and people watched it...
“And I got to meet you!”
“You got to meet me!”
“Best day ever,” said Kimball. “I can’t believe this is happening!”
Kimball told DeGeneres that she has wanted to form an animal rescue since high school. At home she has rescue dogs and cats, one of which is named after DeGeneres and called Ellie.
“I really want you to do that because I think that is amazing. We need more animal rescues out there,” DeGeneres said.
“I wanted Alexis to win ‘Holey Roller’ so bad, I may have cheated,” the host wrote on Twitter.
DeGeneres had Kimball wear a massive stuffed cat head so she could not see the target hole or a large TV screen to her right. After Kimball missed the first roll, a message on the screen told the audience that she would miss the next one too, but to yell and scream as if she made it. “We’re going to tell her she made it because I want to give her $10,000,” said the message.
Kimball missed it, the crowd roared, DeGeneres screamed — “Oh my God, it went right in!” — and a show staffer brought Kimball a large stack of cash.
Back in Jacksonville, Kimball’s dream of founding an animal rescue seems a little closer.
“She [DeGeneres] kind of jump started it,” she said.
For now, she’s going to support existing rescues as she finishes work on her master’s degree in business administration, which is expected to be complete in the spring. But later she hopes to develop a rescue that pairs homeless animals with sick children, with the goal of the children and their families ultimately adopting their paired animal.
“I lost a brother to cancer. I have this in my heart,” she said. “Animals need kids and kids need animals.”
This story originally published to jacksonville.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.