Maybe Ellen DeGeneres should be renamed Ellen De-generous. Why? Well, because the popular talk show host recently gave away a record amount of money to a family in California. It wasn’t a frivolous gift, mind you. On the contrary, DeGeneres seemingly made sure that the cash went to people who truly deserve the prize. And when she surprised the family with the present in front of a live studio audience, the results were utterly heartwarming.
There’s no denying that Ellen DeGeneres is very good at her job, of course. There is, after all, a reason why she’s extremely popular among television audiences. The host has, in fact, won more People’s Choice Awards than anybody else – in addition to 30 Emmys. And not only that, but in 2016 she was also given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a U.S. president can bestow on civilians.
DeGeneres does a great deal of humanitarian work too. For instance, she’s an activist for LGBTQ rights and does a lot of campaigning for animal protection. But perhaps most impressive of all is the star’s philanthropy. Over the years, in fact, DeGeneres and The Ellen Show have helped raise millions of dollars for charities and deserving causes.
Even the star’s famous selfie at the 2014 Oscars raised money for good causes. The picture, which DeGeneres took on a Samsung handset, featured stars such as Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep. The phone manufacturer then offered to give a dollar to charity for each retweet the picture got. And thanks to that deal, over $3 million ended up going to The Humane Society and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
DeGeneres also apparently believes in rewarding people who try and be good human beings without millions of dollars to back them up. For example, in December 2011 The Ellen Show handed over $28,000 worth of Christmas presents to a family who were struggling. The host has also given away plenty of other stuff on her show to people who were in need.
The concept of paying it forward is seemingly something else that DeGeneres believes in too. In early 2015, for instance, she used her show to promote a pizza parlour where customers were encouraged to pay for extra pizza slices for homeless people. Then, by the middle of the year, restaurant visitors had paid for over 23,000 pieces of pizza.
And in February 2019 DeGeneres was up to her same old tricks – but with an impressive twist. This time around, you see, the people she chose to honor were the Daniels family: Robert, Christi and their four children. The host had met them before, so during her February show she explained their situation to the audience.
“I told you we had the biggest surprise we’ve ever done for one family,” DeGeneres announces in the clip later posted online. “And when I say it is big, it is big. We met the Daniels family [in] November  when they entered a contest to sit in our Skybox for the 12 Days of Giveaways.”
“After the show, we learned more about them,” the host continues. “And I wanted to help. Take a look.” Then the show cuts to footage of the family from November, and everyone sees Robert and Christi celebrating in their Skybox. DeGeneres goes on to explain how the Daniels had won the contest. It seems that they’d sent in a video of themselves dancing.
“Now, you’re the ones who sent a little note saying that that video spiced up your love life,” DeGeneres says, to laughter from the audience. “And I don’t know why you felt the need to write it in a note… Don’t get too excited up there!” Some more footage is played after this, and it shows the family meeting the host on January 16, 2019.
For this meeting, Robert and Christi brought their four adorable children along with them. “It’s good to see y’all again!” DeGeneres says. Then she talks about the family’s situation. “So you’re going through a tough time financially,” the host says. “It’s just hard, with four kids,” mom-of-four Christi replies. “We’re in a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment.”
“We’re grateful for what we have, but it’s hard,” Christi goes on. “Christmas is really tough for a lot of people,” DeGeneres says. “And it was really tough for you.” To one of the children, she then says, “R.J., I want you to tell everybody what Christmas means to you.” The young man replies to the host and the audience, “To me, Christmas isn’t about getting presents.”
“It’s about giving presents to others,” R.J. continues. “Seeing other people smile, it just makes me feel good.” The audience then wildly applauds the young man’s words. “I know you watch every single day,” DeGeneres tells the whole family. “So why don’t I give you every single thing we gave away on all 12 days?”
These flashback clips stop there, and then DeGeneres, back in the present, updates her audience on the Daniels family’s story. “So this morning, Jeannie surprised them at their apartment in Hawthorne, California,” she says. “And this is what happened.” The camera then cuts to the show’s correspondent Jeannie Klisiewicz waving hello to DeGeneres.
“Hi, Ellen!” Jeannie says. “I’m here in Hawthorne, C.A., about to surprise the Daniels family!” She then knocks on the family’s apartment door and finds them all inside. “I need you to listen up really carefully, okay?” she tells them. “You have ten minutes to get ready because I am taking you somewhere. I cannot tell you where!”
So the parents quickly start getting their four children ready, brushing their teeth and making them look nice. Then the family pile into the car, still not knowing where they are going. The car, however, has a big picture of DeGeneres’ face on its roof, out of sight of the passengers but perfectly visible to the cameras.
“We may not be able to tell you guys what’s going on,” Jeannie tells the family. “But you just gotta trust me. Y’all trust me?” The family answers in the affirmative. So as the Daniels crew sing and celebrate, the car journeys on towards DeGeneres’ talk show studio, where she and her audience are waiting for them.
“So that was earlier,” DeGeneres says, as the cameras come back to her studio. “I’m told they’re pulling onto the lot… They’re going to be coming through those doors. They didn’t even know they were coming here. They realize that now!” The audience laughs, and the cameras then show the family climbing out of the car.
The family subsequently burst onto the set to the tune of Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.” DeGeneres quickly hugs the children, and the audience cheers wildly as everyone on stage sits down. At this point, then, the host begins explaining to them exactly why they had been brought back to the show and what is going on.
“Y’all are very trusting,” DeGeneres cheerfully tells the family. “You didn’t know where you were going, you just got in a van!” Then she begins the explanation. “Last time you were here, we gave you all 12 Days of Giveaways. So this time you’re like, well, what are we doing now? So I’m going to tell you!” she says.
And, after a commercial break, DeGeneres does indeed tell them. “We’re back with the Daniels family, who we’ve all grown very fond of around here,” she says. “We just couldn’t stop talking about you when I met you. And I just love your kids; I think they’re amazing.” Then the host explains what quality had drawn her to the family.
“What we love about y’all is that no matter what you’re struggling with, no matter how you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you still want to pay it forward, still help others,” DeGeneres says. “Even with the 12 Days of Giveaways, you helped somebody out at Walmart, right?” Christi had indeed done just that.
“It was a family behind me, and they had a newborn baby,” Christi confesses. “And I just paid for their items.” She goes on: “And we were doing little things before, but since the show, you have sparked something else in us. You make us want to do more, go really hard.” Unbeknown to the Daniels, though, DeGeneres is about to spring her surprise.
“We love you, but we’re not the only ones who love you,” the host tells the family. “We found some other people who love you.” So, as the Daniels family watch, footage plays of people who know them singing their praises to the cameras. They talk about the Daniels’ kindness and generosity to strangers.
“What makes Robert and Christi special? They could go to any party, and the party could be a zero,” says Pete Reece, a friend of theirs, in the footage. “By the time they step into the room, it’s 100.” Then, Robert’s sister, Sari, speaks up. “Having Robert as a brother has inspired me to want to be a better person,” she says.
And the praise just keeps coming. “When you find people who are truly genuine, you do have to hold them near and dear,” says another friend, Quiballah. Others speak of the difficulties that the family had faced over the years. “It’s been hard for them raising the four boys in the two-bedroom,” says Christi’s mother, Diane.
“Sometimes there’s things that they need,” Diane goes on. “It just was such a blessing when Ellen picked the video of them, and I’m so thankful to [her].” By the end of the footage, then, the Daniels family are understandably in tears. “I can tell that means a lot to you, that touches you a lot,” DeGeneres says. But there is more to come.
“You’re here because we’re going to do something big that we’ve never done for any family ever,” DeGeneres tells them. “It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done.” Then she offers the Danielses some breathing exercises to calm them all down. “Let’s just take some breathing, just deep breathing,” the host says.
Christi is still very emotional about the video from her family and friends, though. “That was so special,” she tells DeGeneres. The host offers her some water at first – but then seems to change tack completely. “So, you like Cheerios?” she asks the family. “I love Cheerios.”
“It’s a wonderful cereal,” DeGeneres says of Cheerios. “It’s a wonderful company, because they put [out] a lot of positivity and make good go round in the world, because they really care about paying it forward. That’s their whole thing.” However, what Cheerios has to do with the Daniels family is yet to be made clear.
“I’ve gotten to know the people of Cheerios very well,” DeGeneres goes on. “Because I’m partnering with them for this pay it forward. They want to do two things for you, okay? The first thing they want to do is give you $500,000.” Robert and Christi then cry with joy as a man comes out with a giant check.
And yet, that still isn’t all! “That’s one thing,” DeGeneres announces. “We’re gonna take a break, and I’m gonna give you – we’ll come back and give you the other thing after this.” And after the commercials, that is exactly what happens. But first, the host delivers a quick catch-up for her audience.
“We’re back with the Daniels family,” DeGeneres says. “We just surprised them with $500,000 from Cheerios and that is going to take care of a lot. It’s going to take care of your debt, it is going to take care of college for your kids. You’re in a two-bedroom apartment; you can buy a house now.”
“Thank you so much, and thank you, Cheerios,” Christi says through tears. “I just have to tell you that you are a true humanitarian, and I love you,” her husband tells DeGeneres. “If nothing else, I just want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that we really, really love you, and we always have.” The host responds, “I love y’all, too.”
But the biggest surprise of all is still waiting. “So, I said we have two things, right?” DeGeneres checks. “Cheerios wants you to have $500,000 because they want you to take care of all your needs. But they love that you give back to the community. That’s why Cheerios is doing this, because they’re all about one million acts of good.”
“We’re always looking for people to write into us and tell us what they’re doing, because we want to spread this around in the world,” DeGeneres continues. “And they know that you love to pay it forward. So now, the $500,000 is for you. They’re giving you another $500,000 to pay it forward however you want.”
Christi and Robert are utterly shocked, and the audience erupts into cheers once more. Then another check is given to the family. “That’s one million!” DeGeneres shouts. “Look at that!” The applause and celebrations continue as the host brings out the extended Daniels family, who had been waiting in the wings the entire time.
Everyone then hugs and cries as the host speaks to the cameras. “A big thanks to Cheerios,” she says. “Cheerios, thank you so much. I’ll see you tomorrow!” It was a truly thrilling moment for DeGeneres fans everywhere. The million-dollar gift was, in fact, the largest the host had ever presented to one family.
DeGeneres also put news of the family’s generosity and their gift up on her social media. “I can’t think of a more deserving family to receive the biggest gift in the history of my show,” she wrote on her Twitter on February 7, 2019. Beneath the post people praised her, the show and the Daniels family.
“This is such a beautiful act of kindness! We are excited to see how they pay the money forward. You can tell that this family is genuinely excited to give to others!” wrote one person. “They deserve it all. So humble and full of love,” another said. One thing is for certain, then: the million dollars couldn’t have gone to better people.