Renfrew – This year’s version of the Renfrew Victoria Hospital’s Catch the Ace may not be playing out in front of hundreds of cheering guests during the weekly draw at Finnigan’s Road House, but that is not stopping the successful lottery from gaining a strong foothold as it enters Week 40 with a jackpot valued at $329,900.
The RVH lottery took the Ottawa Valley, and much of Eastern Ontario, by storm in early 2020, long before COVID or vaccines became part of our everyday language. Before the province was effectively shut down in March and April 2020, it was nearly impossible to get a seat at Finnigans every Thursday night as the bar and restaurant was usually packed by six o’clock.
Each week people from all parts of the Valley huddled into the restaurant where a burst of cheers erupted around 7:30 as the big prize went unclaimed right up to Week 46 when the Ace of Spades was finally revealed.
Mike Adlington of Ashton became an instant millionaire on that last Thursday of February thanks to the selection of Envelope 42 for the Week 46 draw. With his lucky choice, he took home $1,661,654, which included the weekly prize of $132,662, plus the progressive jackpot of $1,528,992.
Although the second version of the lottery has been radically scaled down, RVH Executive Director Patti Dillabough said there may not be packed bars to watch the draw, but there is a definite “buzz” in the air as the lottery enters Week 40 of a possible 52-week run.
“When we launched the lottery in the summer of 2019 we had no idea of the impact it would have not just for the hospital, but it seemed like all of Eastern Ontario was on the Ace bandwagon with tens of thousands of tickets sold and sales went at a feverish pitch right up to the last minute before the weekly draw took place,” she said.
“It is hard to imagine us getting to those heights again when we had Ottawa media and some national coverage here for the weekly draws along with all the noise and cheering.”
The lottery raised more than $2.5 million for the Renfrew Victoria Hospital Foundation to equip the main X-ray suite with state-of-the-art equipment and IT upgrades at RVH, as well as purchase a portable X-ray machine that will be vital to the emergency department and in-patients, state-of-the-art defibrillators for each of the departments within the hospital and new anesthesia equipment needed in the operating room.
Ms. Dillabough said part of the original winning formula was the combination of 46 vendors up and down the Valley selling tickets along with the outpouring of support with more than 25 volunteers racing all over the area delivering and picking up tickets each week. More than one million tickets were sold during that run.
Today, both Pembroke and Arnprior hospitals have their own lotteries in support of their respective institutions so the RVH lottery is only drawing from its immediate catchment which includes Renfrew, Cobden, Douglas, Eganville, Calabogie and Burnstown with some smaller centres.
“It is not right for us to go into their backyards to sell tickets so we are limiting our sales to our immediate area,” Ms. Dillabough said. “That means instead of 46 vendors, we have scaled back to 24 and instead of 25 or more volunteers, we are drawing on the support of about eight to 10 individuals. There is still excitement which has been challenging to maintain when you consider we have had to suspend the lottery twice due to COVID.”
Even though this year’s version of the lottery actually began in August 2020, Ms. Dillabough said there is something special about getting to Week 40.
“Last year we had a lot of momentum coming out of Week 35 and by Week 40, we had a real phenomenon on our hands and we couldn’t print the tickets fast enough to meet demand. We have sold 219,933 tickets and that has meant 39 weekly winners getting some form of cash prize based on the $219,933 raised.”
Week 40 offers a Progressive jackpot of $329,900 and to date, the lottery has raised close to $550,000 for upgrades to the RVH Emergency Department.
“There may not be standing room only crowds for the weekly Thursday night draw, but when we start streaming at six o’clock from either our outdoor Healing Garden or our indoor solarium, the number of viewers seems to grow with each passing second. People truly and genuinely support our local hospital and as part of the Foundation team, we are honoured and thrilled to once again give people a chance to dream of winning the big prize while at the same time raising funds for RVH.
“No matter who you are, either you or someone you know has gone through the doors of our hospital and for most that is reason enough to purchase a ticket and let yourself dream of winning the big prize. Who knows, this may be the one that goes all the way to 52 weeks. Then you will really feel the Catch The Ace excitement like we had two years ago.”
Ticket sales officially end each Thursday at noon, although Renfrew Printing and Dahl’s Convenience sell last minute tickets up until 4:30 each Thursday afternoon.
Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader