For Adam Klein, winning the title of Sole Survivor on the Wednesday, December 14, finale wasn’t just a childhood dream; it was his mother’s dying wish come true.
While the 25-year-old competed on the CBS hit’s 33rd season, his superfan mom, Susie, stopped receiving treatment for her stage IV lung cancer. Once the final tribal council wrapped, he sensed that she needed him more than ever and hopped on the first flight to San Francisco. But just two hours after he returned to her bedside, she passed away at the age of 60.
“I have two options: I can mope around and feel sorry for myself and think about everything I wish I had, or I can live my life the way that I know my mom would want me to live,” the homeless shelter manager tells Us Weekly exclusively. “That means loving people and life, laughing, traveling, dancing and all those things that she always did until her last days. That’s how I’m choosing to focus my energy.”
Now, with the coveted $1 million check in his name, he plans to donate $100,000 to Stand Up to Cancer as a way of honoring her legacy and furthering research.
"I knew when she passed that I wanted to do something with this experience to make it go beyond Survivor," he said. "More people die from lung cancer every single year than the other top four cancers combined, and yet it gets a fraction of the funding. There is this misconception that you did something along the way to get lung cancer, but that’s not necessarily true. My mom was the perfect epitome of health. I want to show that anyone can get lung cancer and that we need to do something about this terrible disease."
The rest of his prize will likely go straight into his savings. “I work for a nonprofit so I don’t necessarily make a whole ton of money, so this will allow me to live my life where I can take jobs that I feel are meaningful,” added Klein. “But traveling is definitely one of the things that I will spend money on because it’s something that my mom loved to do!”
Head to su2c.org/survivor for information on how to support Klein's efforts to fund cancer research.