‘Surviving’ for charity: Rogers grad hosts ‘Survivor’-like fund-raiser challenge

Rogers graduate Brandon Nelson, a fan of the CBS reality TV show “Survivor,” continued his own version of the popular show this year, with his annual “Live to Give” Survivor-style fund-raiser. Winners include, left to right, Carter Burquest, second place, charity, Hearing Heart Missions; James Wallington, first place, charity, Trevor Project; and Wade Bursch, third place, charity, Gillette Children’s. (Photo by Social Butterfly)

A Rogers graduate and fan of the CBS reality TV show “Survivor” continued his own version of the popular show this year, with his annual “Live to Give” Survivor-style fund-raiser.

Rather than winning money, as the lone survivor does on the TV show, all contestants in Brandon Nelson’s event donate their earnings to a charity, enough so that this year’s July 28-30 event in Elk River raised a whopping $17,764 donated to 20 different charities.

The 2013 Rogers graduate, 22, a current under graduate student at the University of North Dakota, was beyond pleased with this year’s funds raised, as well as contestant and spectator attendance.

“It went so well!” Nelson said. “It was very fun, everything I expected and more.”

Nelson estimated there were between 40 to 50 volunteers along with more than 100 spectators cheering on the 20 competitors.

CBS reality show “Survivor” past contestants attending this year’s “Live to Give” event include, left to right, Bret Labelle, Ashley Arcaro, Holly Hoffman and Sunday Burquest. (Photo by Social Butterfly)

Some of those competitors and volunteers are alumni of the famous show itself, such as Ashley Trainer, Holly Hoffman, Sunday Berquest and Brett LaBelle. Trainer and Berquest are from Minnesota, LaBell traveled from Boston and Hoffman from South Dakota. Berquest and LaBelle also competed in this year’s Live to Give.

“I wanted to combine my passions for charity work with my passion for Survivor,” Nelson said. “Last year was our first event, and now I have volunteers and a team.”

Each contestant chooses a charity they are passionate about and raised money for that charity. During the event, the contestants then competed for the right to donate a portion of the funds raised by all contestants to the charity of their choice, based on their placement in the event.

Day one Friday consisted of competition from 7 to 10 p.m., including challenges and a tribal council that votes off members. Day two saw competition on and off from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., along with morning doughnuts and coffee, a noon to 6 p.m. grill-out (free will donation to the CROSS Food Shelf). The final day also started with 7 a.m. competition with a noon pizza and afternoon potluck (free will donation to CROSS), and finally ending competition at 9 p.m. to reveal the winner.

The 2017 “Live to Give” contestants gather with their total amount donated to charity. The event’s organizer is 2013 Rogers graduate Brandon Nelson, far right. (Photo by Social Butterfly)

This year’s top prize was won by contestant James Wallington of Michigan, who secured almost $6,000 for his charity, the Trevor Project.

“We took back some contestants from last year, and also started reaching out to fans and people who do charity work,” Nelson said. “I assembled my cast and split them up, and they picked their charity. One by one they were voted off.”

Not only does Nelson hope to continue the Live to Give event, he’ll be moving to Texas to begin graduate work in psychology, with the goal of starting a non-profit charity.

Rogers 2013 graduate Brandon Nelson, right, with co-host and Rogers Lions Club member Sarah Nemmers, are seen with donated items raised from Nelson’s “Live to Give” event. The Rogers Lions also hosted this year’s fund-raiser in Elk River. (Photo by Social Butterfly)

“Giving to others is my extra passion,” he said. “It was supposed to be a casual thing but grew so quickly. I’m excited, the contestants worked so hard. It’s a real pleasure to see how well everything turned out, and all for charity at the end of the day.”