Woman who caught the ace wins almost $800,000

·4 min read

Renfrew – Christmas came early for Gertrude Morrow of Richmond after her ticket was picked from among thousands and she is now $797,237 richer as the big winner in the Renfrew Victoria Hospital’s (RVH) Catch the Ace contest.

The draw took place on December 17 in the hospital’s cafeteria. Her selection of number 38 matched the number 38 envelope containing the most elusive Ace of Spades ever seen in the Ottawa Valley.

Just moments before Ms. Morrow’s winning ticket was chosen, Mussrat Shaheen of Barry's Bay found out her ticket was drawn first which allowed her to claim the weekly winnings totalling $72,336. Her ticket was among the other 72,336 tickets sold in less than a week. Ironically, she purchased her ticket at Eganville Foodland, the same location where the 50th weekly winner purchased her $48,381 winning ticket.

Since the onslaught of the COVID pandemic, the weekly draw has taken place in a section of the hospital far away from regular hospital activity. However, the final Catch the Ace draw was held in the cafeteria with less than 20 people in the area and spaced six-feet apart.

Making the draw in front of an audience added a high level of excitement to the event and reminded those in attendance of the first Catch the Ace lottery when the weekly draws were held at Finnigan’s in Renfrew before sold-out crowds numbering around 200.

When RVH Foundation Executive Director Patti Dillabough gave the signal for the weekly draw to begin, Foundation members Patti Watters and Steven Lyons began spinning the big blue drum containing the tickets. Fellow Foundation member Melanie Clemmer reached deep into the drum and drew the name of Mussrat Shaheen and she was declared the weekly winner. However, the envelope she chose did not contain the Ace of Spades.

As the suspense began to build, Ms. Clemmer made her way to the locked glass case containing two envelopes with the numbers 38 and 41 on them. If the Ace of Spades was contained in envelope 41, then not only would Shaheen win the weekly prize, but the progressive jackpot as well which means she could have won a total of $869,583.

When Ms. Clemmer opened the envelope, it revealed the six of Clubs and not the Ace of Spades.

One envelope, number 38 remained the only one on the board and everyone knew the Ace of Spades was hidden inside. As Ms. Clemmer walked over to the drum, the volunteers stopped spinning it and Ms. Clemmer pulled out a ticket with the number 38 written on it.

Gertrude Morrow of Richmond was identified as the name on the ticket. In order to the make the lottery legal and completed, Ms. Clemmer once again made her way to the board and drew the number 41 envelope. As she slowly opened the envelope, the small crowd of 14 people clapped in unison and as Ms. Clemmer slowly turned the card around to reveal the Ace of Spades, the crowd and foundation members cheered together.

Catch the Ace Benefits Everyone

With $1.3 million raised through the second installment of Catch the Ace, the RVH Catch the Ace not only went the distance of 52 cards, but it did so despite two extended periods of time when all ticket sales stopped due to the restrictions of the COVID pandemic. The lottery began in August 2020 and it took until December to finally close out the second version of Catch the Ace.

Ms. Dillabough explained the upgrades to the ER Department will commence early in the New Year and the construction will be phased in over a longer stretch of time because they don’t want to be intrusive as front-line health care workers deal with some complex cases and require private, uninterrupted service.

The foundation’s first Catch the Ace had a run of 46 weeks before more than a million dollars was won by a resident from Ashton who won both the progressive and weekly prize. Unlike the lottery that just wrapped up, the first one had widespread support and the excitement was felt all through Eastern Ontario. The $2.5 million raised was used to purchase portable X-Ray units for various departments.

Ms. Dillabough said after a break, there will be a third lottery.

“I want everyone to know we are going to take a little break and catch our breath and the third installment, or the trilogy, will be up and running in April 2022,” she said. “We are timing it so it fits in with our Cancer Awareness campaign. The funds we raise from the next Catch the Ace lottery will be used to purchase a new mammogram machine as the current one is 10 years old. In medical terms, it is past its due date and our goal will be to bring a new one to RVH.”

Ms. Dillabough said the winners have been contacted by foundation staff and they are trying to coordinate a time this week for the cheques to be awarded.

Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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