Maine woman gets trip to Nashville despite 'Wheel of Fortune' prize loss

Posted at 12:38 PM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 17:25:09-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Imagine winning a dream trip on a game show, and then losing it because you accidentally said one wrong word.

Kristen Shaw’s dream of an all-expenses paid trip to Nashville spun away as she lost "Wheel of Fortune" on a technicality by accidentally saying “and” in the answer.

“I was really disappointed in myself because I tried to slow down, I knew all the words, and Nashville is such a great city and it was a place on my bucket list to go,” said Shaw.

As Shaw went back home to Maine after her loss, LJ Whalen woke up and googled Nashville just like he does every morning.

“The top 40 stories were terrible. It was like “Nashville trip taken away,” and all these things like that. It was negative stuff. And I was like, that’s terrible for her and it’s terrible for Nashville.

Whalen is a director of branding for Adventure Works and got busy recruiting local hospitality companies to recreate the prize package for Shaw.

“I called everyone I knew, I emailed everyone I knew, and I said ‘hey, I don’t know if you can do this, but I need two to four free tickets to the Opry, to the Ryman, whatever you can give me give me,” said Whalen.

And Music City’s hospitality community came together with more than 30 Nashville brands kicking in more than $8,000 worth of prizes including hotel accommodations, transportation, meals and drinks, and Nashville souvenirs.

“I more or less called her and I was like, hey this is some random guy you’ve never heard of in Nashville and we’d like for you to have an all inclusive trip to Nashville because we heard that you lost it,” said Whalen.

She went from thinking it was a prank to being speechless.

“I can’t even think LJ enough. He is such a kind-hearted soul and I never would’ve known him without this experience and I can’t wait to come to Nashville,” said Shaw.

The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp is covering the airfare and honored Whalen with a Hitmaker Award. Each month a different tourism worker is selected from nominations for outstanding hospitality and service.

Whalen’s boss Jennifer Halverson points out the life lesson we can all learn from Shaw’s experience.

“Things do turn around. There’re second chances. And good does come out of everything,” said Halverson.

Hitmakers get a certificate and special lunch, and if you would like to nominate a hospitality worker for just fill out a form here.