There is a reason that Rupert Boneham is one of the most popular Survivor contestants in the history of the show in terms of fan favorites. Who doesn’t love the guy with the bushy beard and tie dyed t-shirt who played the game with an almost child like enthusiasm? While his genuine spirit, sensitivity and integrity did not necessarily serve him well in the game where his honesty appeared to be taken advantage of by other players, it certainly worked in his favor when producers elected to give America a vote following Survivor: All Stars. America finally got a chance to reward their favorite player with a million dollar check.
Boneham first appeared on the Survivor: Pearl Islands season where he embraced the spirit of the pirates who had made the islands famous. In the very first episode, Rupert giggled like a school girl as he pirated the opposing team’s shoes and used them to barter with the locals in the marketplace. Such a move might have marked another player as the season’s villain, but it was the glee and delight with which the move was made that ultimately won over viewers and his fellow tribemates. He further endeared himself to viewers by adopting a pet snake that he named Balboa. The snake died later in the episode and Rupert was genuinely upset. When the two tribes merged, they chose the tribe name Balboa in honor of Rupert’s fallen comrade.
While Rupert became the tenth person voted out of Survivor: Pearl Islands, he fared much better in the next season, Survivor: All Stars. Rupert returned home for only a month before returning to the Pearl Islands for the All Star season. His efforts were good enough to get him to the final four before he was voted out of the tribe. However, when producers gave America a chance to vote for a second million dollar winner, Rupert received an overwhelming majority of the 38 million votes (85%).
With Rupert’s million dollar winnings, he purchased a new house and set up a college account for his young daughter. In addition, he also founded a charity called Rupert’s Kids, after spending 20 years of his life working with troubled youth. Rupert’s Kids serves as a mentoring program for kids and teenagers who are at risk. The charity is in line with Rupert’s line of work – prior to his first appearance on Survivor, he had served as a mentor for troubled children.