There was little by way of hesitation, Don DeMare said, when he picked the card that would win him $173,487.
The Carman resident walked over to the table, placed his winning token — one of 20,000 in the raffle drum — on the back of a playing card, second from the bottom left.
He didn’t think much of which card he picked.
After beating the odds to have his token pulled from the drum, DeMare’s odds to win the Chase the Ace raffle that captivated Pilot Mound were one in seven.
"I told them, that’s the one," DeMare recalled of his conversation with raffle organizers before his card was flipped over. "If we win, we win. If we don’t, whatever I’m having a good time, because honestly I was having a great time, seeing a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long time."
Eleven months after the contest started, the ace of spades was displayed.
It didn’t sink in right away, DeMare remembers of his April 7 win. And then his facial expression said it all: astonished, with his mouth agape, hands to his face.
A video of the winning draw, seen on the Kin Community Playground Facebook page, has been watched at least 26,000 times.
"I’m still on cloud nine, actually," DeMare said last week. "It was a very nice surprise."
After a celebratory "drink or two" that evening, DeMare made new plans for his Saturday morning. He headed off to a motorcycle dealership in Morden to browse Harley Davidsons, some 20 years ago after he sold his motorcycle.
"I’ve always wanted to get another one, but you know there’s life circumstances, you can’t afford it or don’t want to take the chance; this was my once-in-a-lifetime deal to buy the bike that I wanted."
The truck driver with Maple Leaf in Winkler split the pot with his girlfriend Ferne Morgan, an agreement they hatched prior to the win.
They each spent $100 in tickets.
The wildly popular Chase the Ace fundraiser has exploded in popularity, especially after massive pots were awarded in Nova Scotia. Last year, $2.9 million was won in Sydney.
At first, the jackpot slowly accumulates, with the winner each week picking one card from a standard deck. If the Ace of Spades is not chosen, that card is removed from the deck and brand new tickets are sold the next week, until eventually the ace is selected.
It took until March 17 for the pot to reach $100,000.
Each week, 20,000 tickets could be sold, with each purchased for $2. Each person could spend a maximum of $1,000 on tickets per draw, which a few people spent on the final date. All tickets were purchased on April 7.
Like a 50-50 raffle, winnings are split evenly between the winner and charity.
The fundraiser was established by Pilot Mound’s Kinette Club, which had previously raised $50,000 over four years to replace a playground by the community hall.
Concluding the contest "means we’re done fundraising," said Sally Currie, raffle chair. "It means we can put our efforts into other parts of the community that needs help."
The Kinettes will build a better play structure than what their planned $80,000 could afford, explained Currie.
Excess funds will be donated to Pilot Mound’s swimming pool and a group fundraising to reopen the community-owned theatre, which closed in 2010.
For the final draw, people started lining up at 11:40 a.m., with more than 300 people in line by late afternoon. Some people were turned away.
DeMare said he and his girlfriend were around the 250th people in line.
That was his third week at the raffle. He said he kept coming back to Call-Inn’s Hotel because each Friday became a large meeting of people he hadn’t seen in years.
Now, he’s a big winner, with funds to help out his kids and invest in home renovations.
"My son was ecstatic," DeMare said of his 29-year-old son Jordon. "He said, ‘Dad, you’ve needed a break for so long.’"
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