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Ohio Vax-A-Million: How the first winners found out their names were picked

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July 04 2021 08:00 pm

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Abbigail Bugenske said she was driving to her parent’s house in northeast Ohio when she got a phone call around 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.

It was Gov. Mike DeWine.

He was letting her know that she was the first $1 million winner in the Ohio Vax-a-million drawing. Over five weeks, for residents vaccinated against COVID-19, the state will be giving $1 million to those 18 and older and a full scholarship to a state university to a child 12-17. The first student winner was Joseph Costello of Englewood.

When Bugenske got to her parent’s home, she had to be calmed down.

“I was screaming enough that my parents thought I was crying,” she said Thursday morning.

Her parents wanted to make sure it wasn’t some prank. But then she looked at her phone and saw notifications of all the new followers that she was getting on social media, and she knew.

Bugenske, 22, is a Silverton resident, in Hamilton County, and works as an engineer at GE Aviation. She is from northeast Ohio and graduated from Shaker Heights High School.

Bugenske said she had been looking to a buy a used car, and that even despite her new winnings, she is probably going to still go used.

Costello, an eighth-grader in Montgomery County, was vaccinated only on Saturday. The deadline to be entered for the first drawing was Sunday night.

DeWine called his mother, Colleen, when Joseph was at youth group, and his father didn’t tell him the news during the drive home. When they got back, a member of DeWine’s staff was already there.

DeWine and his wife, Fran, visited with the family.

“I’m very happy my scholarship is taken care of, but still taking in the moment about it,” Joseph said.

Colleen said she entered the entire family into the lottery on Sunday. She said that she had been vaccinated in April and her husband, Rich, was vaccinated with teachers in February. But once the Vax-a-million lottery was announced, she decided to get her children vaccinated sooner rather than later.

It was a decision that paid off.

All Ohio residents who have had at least one Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shot may register at Ohiovaxamillion.com or by calling 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634). Once you’ve registered, you are entered in all remaining drawings.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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