BLOOMINGTON — A city garbageman honored for his acts of kindness and his wife hauled away a life-altering amount of money from "The Wall" after some hair-raising ups and downs.
Delvar Dopson, 35, of Bloomington and his wife, Bonnie, 33, were invited to compete for more than $12 million in prize money on the NBC game show after producers learned of his community spirit.
On the episode that aired Thursday night on WEEK, they won $399,792 to be exact. During the hourlong episode, they hit six figures a few times and zero several times before the end.
Sworn to silence until after the show aired, the Dopsons said Thursday night they were thrilled with the possibilities the winnings bring.
"We are working and we plan to still work," said Delvar Dopson. "But that gives us a cushion in our hearts and our minds and our finances."
The Dopsons, who have been married for four years, said they are going to buy their first home together, start a family and advance Eregon 206, a local nonprofit program that Delvar Dopson leads to help build character in area youths.
"We don't have to worry about any amount of significant debt," he said. "Right now we are in a good place. Now it's about ways we can expand with our not-for-profit."
NBC Universal officials invited the couple to compete on the show, which they say gives "good people the opportunity to win big," after noticing Delvar Dopson in a series of YouTube videos produced by Nutella, the makers of the chocolate hazelnut spread, promoting people who spread love.
"Smiling is his strong suit," said show host Chris Hardwick, in introducing the contestant. "Delvar is a garbageman from Illinois, but not just any garbageman. This guy loves it. And his huge smile has made him a hit with people on his route, especially the kids."
The Nutella video came about after the city of Bloomington posted a picture on Facebook in 2016 of him with one of his biggest fans, Brooklyn Andracke, then 3 years old, who watched for him and waved on his route. The Pantagraph covered their first face-to-face meeting on April 7, 2016.
The Dopsons competed for the cash prize by answering trivia questions and gambling on how balls dropped down a four-story-tall wall would land in slots marked with dollar amounts. Bonnie played part of the game in an isolation room, so she was unaware of the amount of money Delvar had accumulated at the wall.
Ultimately, the money they walked away with came down to Bonnie choosing between a guaranteed cash prize of $55,221 or trusting that Delvar had made more at the wall.
Bonnie initially signed the contract for the guaranteed amount but ripped it up before joining her husband on stage.
"I hope it's a decision you can be proud of," she told her husband on stage.
"There's a few things we came here with that we're going to go back home with and that is our love, our smiles, our attitude. But we're also going to go home with a little more," Delvar responded.
The Dopsons watched the show with friends and family gathered at the Bloomington home of Delvar's brother and sister-in-law, Darrin and Rhoda Dopson, who were in the audience when the episode was filmed April 8 in California.