In two earlier appearances, Alexis Kimball received a 65-inch television, a Bahamas trip and $10,000 cash for her teenage dream of opening an animal rescue. In her third appearance, she certainly didn’t expect more.
Jacksonville’s Alexis Kimball thought she was making a third appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to report back on her Ellen-sponsored trip to Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas.
In two earlier appearances, she also received a 65-inch television and $10,000 cash for her teenage dream of opening an animal rescue.
Kimball, 32, certainly didn’t expect more.
So in the show that aired Monday she talked about her trip, as DeGeneres showed clips of her in a VIP suite, feeding some of the resort’s marine life and swimming with a pod of dolphins rescued from Hurricane Katrina.
DeGeneres then did what DeGeneres often does on the show. She surprised her guest with an oversize cardboard check.
The host gave Kimball another $10,000. “We want to continue helping you,” she said. “We want you to open that rescue place.”
Kimball, advertising sales and marketing director at Talk 100.3 FM in Jacksonville, was stunned.
“I had no idea,” she told the Times-Union on Monday. “I was shocked. So grateful … Ellen surprised me once again.”
What she calls her “Epic Ellen Experience” began in September, when Kimball, who said she is a “huge, huge Ellen fan,” got tickets to be in the audience for one of the talk show’s episodes. She was called up to the stage to play the Holey Roller game, which typically involves rolling a small ball across the stage to a target hole while blindfolded.
Kimball did not win in the first appearance but got to meet DeGeneres and received the 65-inch TV. Still, DeGeneres brought her back for a second try. She was again called to the stage and again did not get the ball to the target hole. But DeGeneres had rigged the proceedings so she could take home $10,000 for her planned animal rescue.
“I wanted Alexis to win ‘Holey Roller’ so bad, I may have cheated,” the host wrote on Twitter.
The host had Kimball wear a massive stuffed cat head so she could not see the target hole. And when she missed it, DeGeneres and the audience cheered that she was right on the money and a show staffer brought Kimball a large stack of cash. The host then told her about the trip, which was designed to show potential tourists a part of the Bahamas that was undamaged by Hurricane Dorian earlier this year.
On Monday’s show, Kimball thanked DeGeneres for “jump starting” what now has a name: Creature Comforts Rescue Inc.
“You have equipped me to do so much good,” she said.
Initially, the rescue will help homeless animals, but her ultimate vision is to also pair rescue animals with sick children, with the goal of the children and their families ultimately adopting their paired animal.
With DeGeneres’ financial support and endorsement, Kimball said, her dream is now a “realistic” goal.
For now, the DeGeneres donations have been in put in savings, except for $1,000 Kimball donated to the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which supports organizations working for wildlife conservation. “It was the least I could do,” she said on Monday’s show. “I wish I could do more.”
Until Kimball finishes work on her master’s degree in business administration in April, she will raise money, volunteer for existing rescues and read everything she can find on starting and operating an animal rescue. She has already obtained nonprofit status for Creature Comforts.
“My life will never be the same,” Kimball said. “I made some great connections on the show. I want to keep her [DeGeneres] in the loop and make her proud.”
Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109
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.