Jim Gibson, chairman of the governance committee of the Deep River and District Hospital Foundation, reveals the ace of spades after opening evelope 47 during the 50th week of the Catch the Ace progressive lottery Feb. 21 at the Bear’s Den in Deep River. Locating the ace brought the lottery to an end and translated into a prize of $574,000 for Mark McEachen of Douglas. Jim’s wife Marlene, who drew the winning ticket, is seen reacting in the background.
Tina Peplinskie / Observer and News
DEEP RIVER – After remaining hidden for nearly a year, the ace of spades has been found, giving a Douglas family a windfall of $574,000.After 50 weeks, the Catch the Ace progressive lottery came to an end Thursday night when Jim Gibson opened envelope 47 to reveal the elusive ace of spades. The lucky winner is Mark McEachen, who purchased his ticket at the Bear’s Den, where the draw was held, earlier in the day. The jackpot includes the weekly prize of $65,474, which is $1 from every ticket sold last week and the progressive jackpot of approximately $508,500 which has been growing since the lottery began nearly one year ago. The lottery also brought in $780,000 for the Deep River and District Hospital, to be used to purchase much needed diagnostic imaging equipment. This was the largest weekly prize as sales jumped from just shy of 50,000 the previous week.McEachen did not answer the call to receive the good news from Gibson because he was at the Eganville Arena for a hockey game and he did not service. He eventually called in to hear the news in person, but said his phone had been blowing up with messages from people who had watched the live feed of the draw. This was the fourth week he’d purchased tickets, spending $20 each week. Still surprised by the win, he has no immediate plans on how he will spend the winnings, although he added he will do what he is told with the money. He and his wife have four children.Once the reality had settled in that the lottery has ended, Gibson admitted he had mixed feelings.“It’s fortunate for Mark, but it ceases this marvellous ride the hospital foundation has been on,” he said. “Every volunteer was ready to go for another two weeks. We can’t wait to do it again.”The volunteers have been the driving force behind the success of this endeavour, putting in countless hours to sell tickets at various locations throughout the Ottawa Valley then counting and recounting the funds raised to ensure everything lined up. Gibson estimates he and his wife Marlene have dedicated in excess of 650 hours each to the lottery and as the lottery grew, a small army of volunteers dedicated about 500 hours a week to the effort, he added.And grow it did. Gibson was selling tickets at Perkins Self Serve and Convenience in Pembroke, the busiest location for ticket sales, on Feb. 21 when he had customers from Ottawa, Morrisburg, Prescott, Belleville and Kingston.“I’d say about 75 per cent of the people buying today (Feb. 21) were buying for the first time,” Gibson said prior to the draw. “This is the most exciting thing to hit the Valley since the International Plowing Match. Where else can you make this much money for the hospital in one week? The support has been unbelievable.”Ashley Pardy, executive director of the Deep River and District Hospital Foundation, said the hospital was so thankful for the support in the past year through the lottery which has helped to raise $780,000 towards the $1.75 million need to purchase the new x-ray machine, portable x-ray and ultrasound machine.“It felt like such a huge task at the beginning because we’re just a small community, but now that goal seems achievable,” she said. “This equipment will cut down on how far patients have to travel for care and overall it will mean better health care for patients in our area.”She also credited the volunteers for their tireless work to make the lottery such a success and thanked the businesses that allowed the sale of tickets in their establishments, especially those that had staff sell the tickets such as Raby’s Ultramar in Chalk River.“This has really brought people together,” Pardy said. “Everyone is so enthusiastic. It’s exceeded all of our wildest dreams.”Hoping to build on the momentum, the foundation has decided to proceed with a third Catch the Ace lottery and has applied to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) for another licence. It is anticipated there will be a break of a month to five weeks before the next lottery would get rolling.“We intend to keep this going now that we are a well-oiled machine,” she added.An inspector from AGCO recently visited Deep River to perform an audit of the lottery and Gibson was thrilled to report the inspector referred to the operation as the gold standard.TPeplinskie@postmedia.comTwitter.com/TPeplinskie