Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol surprises Franklin County winner at work in Md.
People don't often use the front door at the home of Suzanne and Bill Jones on Mercersburg Road in Franklin County, just a stone's throw north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
"What's this about?" Bill asked when he came to the door of their Montgomery Township home in his stocking feet Thursday morning.
"Oh my goodness!" he said with realization as he took in the balloons, the roses, one man with a giant check for $10,000 and another with a video camera.
The Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol had come calling for the sweepstakes he told his wife she would never win.
"Oh my goodness," he repeated, before explaining Suzanne was at work at D.M. Bowman Inc. in Williamsport, Md., and asking, "Do you want to surprise her? I have to put on my shoes."
He led a caravan to the building about 12 miles away, which included vehicles driven by Dave Sayer, Prize Patrol ambassador, and Randy Feldman of Viewpoint Communications Inc., to the building where the soon-to-be retired operations manager works.
Suzanne's plans to retire at the end of the year made her think it was a joke when she was called to the lobby and saw the Publishers Clearing House balloons. She thought people where being funny until she saw her husband.
"Today's your lucky day. Here's $10,000," Sayer said, handing Suzanne a bouquet of red roses and the larger-than-life check.
"I got $10,000," she said to her co-workers, who came out of their offices to see what the commotion was about.
"Did you ever think it would happen to you?" Sayer asked.
"It always happen to someone way far away," Bill said, holding a bottle of champagne, also courtesy of Publishers Clearing House. He and others gathered around admitted they won't be so skeptical about the sweepstakes now.
"Now we know you're real," commented one of Suzanne's co-workers, while another said, "I want to hug you for good luck."
"You can give that to me," someone said as Sayer gave Suzanne the real, normal-sized check.
The chorus of congratulations included "It couldn't have happened to a better person."
The $10,000 Suzanne got Thursday was due to luck, but the $1,000 she received at the company Christmas party just after Thanksgiving was for how she does her job at the trucking company where she's worked for 32 years.
She received the Jone Bowman Customer Service Award, presented in memory of the wife of company founder Don Bowman, who lost her life to breast cancer, according to Bill Hall, CEO.
Hall noted Suzanne's been talked out of retiring several times, but another co-worker quipped, "She's never going to stay now."
Suzanne and her husband have plans for when she retires, and the money will come in handy.
They're talking about a trip to visit relatives as far-flung as New Orleans, South Dakota and Ohio.
They're also planning to build a house in Bedford County, where her family is from.
"I'd like to see you again," she told Sayer, and told her co-workers to "just keep trying."
About the Prize Patrol
Publishers Clearing House, founded in 1953 as a magazine subscription agency, has evolved into an interactive media company.
The sweepstakes too, has evolved, and people can enter online as well as by mail.
During more than 40 years with the company, Sayer has delivered about 525 prizes worth over half a billion dollars.
He was director of advertising and public relations when the Prize Patrol was born in 1988.
His assistant, Todd Sloane, had a video camera and suggested filming people because of how excited they were when they won.
Ever since one video experiment captured a "terribly excited" young Texas couple, prizes have been awarded in-person and on-camera.
"It has become kind of iconic," said Sayer, who comprises the four-member Prize Patrol with Sloane, Danielle Lam and Howie Gujarat.
The presentation celebration has come to include with the addition of roses, balloons, the big check and champagne.
There's an average of one prize a week of $10,000 or more and about 10 prizes a year of $1 million a year, as well as cars and trucks.
There were fewer presentations than usual during the height of COVID-19, and some prizes were sent by mail.
"We couldn't hug winners as much as we'd like to," said Sayer. "I can't wait to get fully back to normal."
Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at email@example.com