On Sunday’s ‘Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,’ Melissa Joan Hart of ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’ was the first $1 million winner for charity, after facing off against Tituss Burgess and Lacey Chabert.
Hart knew something extraordinary had transpired by the wild-eyed expression on the show’s long-time hostess’ face.
“Vanna White’s face turned white,” says Hart. “Vanna looked at me and was like, ‘You got it! You got it!’ I hit the roof. She hit the roof.”
“It was super exciting and pretty nerve-wracking; I rarely win game shows,” says Hart, who Fred Savage defeated in a 1998 ‘Celebrity Jeopardy’ duel.
Hart joins an exclusive club with her “Celebrity” triumph. Since its inception in 2008, the syndicated ‘Wheel of Fortune’ has produced only three ‘Million Dollar Wedge’ winners.
Is it a coincidence that Hart’s win occurred on the 25th anniversary of her breakout appearance on ABC’s ‘Sabrina’ in 1996?
“I would like to say witchcraft was involved,” says Hart. “But to be honest, I prayed a lot more than any kind of sorcery. I literally prayed every round, especially that winning round. I’d close my eyes and say, ‘God, give me focus and calm and let me just read these letters.'”
Divine intervention was required to bolster her ability to solve puzzles. Hart was required to spin the wheel, land on Million Dollar Wedges twice, and solve both puzzles, all while competing against astute opponents such as long-time buddy Chabert, who had completed the show’s first challenge without any hints.
“Lacey is a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ shark,” says Hart. “In the first round, she was killing it. I just couldn’t see the words as fast as she could.”
However, Hart said, “My mom used to watch the show every night before dinner.” For weeks, she honed her skills playing the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ app while putting her youngest son Tucker, 9, to bed. “I wasn’t going to go in there blind; I’m a prepared person,” she explains.
When host Pat Sajak declared Hart’s victory, she screamed and clutched her quivering palms to her head.
Hart, who received no compensation for his appearance on the game show, raised a total of $1,039,800 for Youth Villages, a charity organization that aids emotionally and behaviorally distressed children and their families.
The overjoyed Hart requested permission from the show’s producers to keep the $1 million prize card as a souvenir. “They had to ask the prop people, ‘Can we make more of these?’ ” says Hart. “So not only did I win the million, I stole the million-dollar card.”