Staggering sum raised for Survivor fave
He may not have won bragging rights - but Survivor's Luke Toki is close to taking home the equivalent of the prize money anyway, thanks to a viral GoFundMe campaign.
The FIFO worker from WA, affectionately dubbed "King of the Jungle" when he appeared on the 2017 season of Survivor, secured himself as a favourite early on this season - and fans were left heartbroken when the tribe sent him home on Monday night.
The decision was particularly heartbreaking in light of Luke's powerful reason for signing up to the show and vying for the $500,000 prize money. His two boys are both on the autism spectrum, while baby Madeline, born just six weeks before Survivor started filming, has cystic fibrosis.
Throughout the season, he was vocal about his intentions to use the money to provide a better life for his family.
A GoFundMe page was established within hours of his elimination and, as of early Wednesday morning, had already attracted $440,000 - just $60,000 shy of the actual prize money won by actress Pia Miranda.
The super fan behind the fundraising page, Dave Skow, wrote that Luke was "the best Australian Survivor contestant, ever".
"Leaving behind his young family, he had one aim - to take out the title of Sole Survivor and, in turn, win $500k to provide a better life for them."
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These guys ❤ These are the guys everyone has donated too... I could sleep on the sand with no food for days on end and still be ok. It was a great season full of different characters and story arcs but now I'm looking foward to crawling under a rock and spending some quality time with the family. Much love and thankyou to everyone for the support ❤
Mr Skow updated the page last night and said it was "hard to put into words just how amazing this campaign has been".
"Thousands of donations from thousands of fans from all walks of life - a real testament to the lasting impression that Luke has left on so many," he wrote.
"A few people have asked if we will keep the page open once the target is reached, and the answer is absolutely. The $500k target was simply to reflect the prize money on offer in Survivor, but if we can raise more than that then this thing will be open for as long as people want to keep donating.
"The Toki's have a challenging road ahead so limiting the amount we can raise is certainly not on the agenda. If we smash $500k, we will strive for $600k, then $700k and so on until this crazy ride comes to a natural end."
Speaking on The Project on Tuesday night, Toki admitted he felt "a bit teary" about the generosity of fans.
"It's extremely humbling, I'm the first returnee and I felt I had a lot of weight on my shoulders to perform and do well and I have and much love to everyone who's donated and sent (money) my way," he said, before joking: "It's going straight to the casino! Nah, nah, I won't... well, maybe just a little bit."
On last night’s episode of Survivor Pia was forced to make a super tough decision - throw Luke a lifeline to secure his spot next to her in the finale - or send her friend packin’. The result was a very emotional farewell for the much-loved ‘King of the Jungle'. pic.twitter.com/PgMnCJviO2— The Project (@theprojecttv) September 17, 2019
Meanwhile, Looking for Alibrandi star and mum-of-two Pia, 46, defeated runner-up Baden Gilbert in a nailbiting finale on Tuesday night, with Harry Hills finishing in third place.
Pia endured extreme backlash among fans with her decision to vote out former ally and Champions teammate Luke earlier this week but had a redemption of sorts with her passionate plea to him during the last tribal council.
Luke was the last to quiz Pia and Baden in the final tribal council last night and he saved a stinging question for Pia.
"I like to think I helped you twice in the game, and it's obviously got you to where you are now. I would've loved to have had that favour repaid. It wasn't. Why should I give you my vote?" Luke asked her during the tense meeting.
Pia was emotional with her response.
"How we much we wanted to win this for our families - and I will never get over having to take that dream away from you.
"Last night, when I was on that podium for six hours and 40 minutes (during the final challenge), I wasn't doing it so that I could break a record … If I took away your chance to be here, I was going to make damn sure I was here instead. Because I didn't want voting you out to be futile."
Earlier in the episode, Pia admitted that her decision to turn her back on Toki would weigh on her forever.
"I took away Luke's dream. It felt really horrific to vote him out," she confessed.
"He's been a real ally of mine. I'm going to sit with that decision for the rest of my life."
Were you happy with the result? Was Pia a worthy Sole Survivor? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below