DENVER – Stephanie Ward, a Littleton mother of two who works two jobs along with her husband, is the second Coloradan to win $1 million through the Colorado Comeback Cash lottery for getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Ward said during a news conference Friday in which she was announced as the winner that she and her family decided to get vaccinated together after some initial hesitation in order to “return to normalcy and protect the elders we love” and after they decided together that the benefits outweighed the fears they had.
She said she was at work when she received the call about winning and that she wasn't sure if it was another scam call or not.
The pandemic has been challenging for the family of four, Ward said. Her daughter graduated high school last spring after moving to online courses to finish out the year, then had to attend most of her classes in her first year at Colorado State University from her dorm room.
Her son had to undergo the ordeal of going from remote learning to a hybrid schedule, missing out on socializing with his friends and classmates, to finishing out this school year in-person, which Ward said was “wonderful.” Extended family members could not attend most of his football games, and she had to buy a weight bench for him so he could keep working out.
She says the hardest part of the pandemic was being away from her parents. She hadn’t seen her mom in 14 months, waiting until she was vaccinated and it was safe to do so, and her father decided not to risk attending Ward’s daughter’s graduation and her son’s last football game.
Her father-in-law, who had breathing issues but lived in town, she says, could not attend some gatherings or events. They decided not to get together for Thanksgiving, typically a large family event.
Then, she lost her father-in-law a few weeks later – not because of COVID but because of the underlying breathing issues, she said. She called his death “very tragic” and got emotional Friday when talking about how they were not able to have a proper service for him.
“This is all emotional. As you guys can imagine, I’m super excited that I won the million dollars, but COVID’s a real thing. And we ended up losing him,” she said. “We didn’t have a proper service. But that’s part of the COVID, and that’s part of the reason that people need to be getting vaccinated, so people can be getting back to normal.”
“For myself, and for a lot of you, we’ve all had losses and we’ve all – it’s just time we can’t take back, with family and with different things that we’ve all lost out on,” she added.
She said she and her husband have both worked two jobs for the past two years.
“This money is going to take a huge burden off of the both of us so that we don’t have to continue to work two jobs to support our family,” Ward said.
She said she wants to “try to stay humble” with the money – invest in her kids’ college plans and careers, pay off some debt and invest some of the money.
“I hope and encourage you guys to get out and get vaccinated,” Ward said.
Polis said the state had seen a roughly 8% increase in the number of people vaccinated since the Comeback Cash program was announced. Last week’s million-dollar winner was a clinical data analyst from Mead, Sally Sliger.
There will be three more million-dollar drawings over each of the next three weeks. The state announced on Thursday the first five winners of the $50,000 scholarships for vaccinated kids ages 12-17, and there will be drawings each of the next four weeks to hand out a total of 25 scholarships.
For more on how the program works and how the drawings are made, click here.