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'Whirlwind': Shaker Heights native reacts to winning $1 million in Ohio Vax-a-Million lottery

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Posted at 8:39 AM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 18:14:09-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Life changed forever for two lucky Ohioans who woke up as the first people to win Ohio’s Vax-a-Million lottery drawing. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine met with Abbigail Bugenske, the first winner of the $1 million prize, and Joseph Costello, the first to win the four-year college scholarship, on Thursday.

The two winners took questions from the governor and reporters Thursday.

Northeast Ohio native Abbigail Bugenske

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Northeast Ohio native Abbigail Bugenske.

A native of Shaker Heights and a graduate of Shaker Heights High School, Bugenske moved to the Cincinnati area for a job at GE Aviation, where she works as a mechanical engineer. A graduate of Michigan State University, Bugenske said she doesn’t plan to quit her job, reiterating that she loves it and has plans to receive her master’s degree in aerospace engineering.

When she received the call from DeWine, she was driving from Hamilton County, near Cincinnati, to see her parents who still live in Shaker Heights, and to see a used car she was considering buying. At first she thought it was a prank call.

"It was a Wednesday night I will never forget," she said.

While she hasn’t thought about what she will specifically spend her money on, she knows some of it will go to charity, most of it will be invested and some will be used to purchase a used car she was already considering buying before winning the $1 million.

“To sum it up in one word, a whirlwind, and it absolutely has not processed yet. I am still digesting it and I like to say that it feels like this is happening to a different person. I, I cannot believe it," she said.

She has already felt the celebrity-like status that comes with being a lottery winner. After the announcement Wednesday night, she was inundated with calls, text, friend requests and new followers on social media.

At one point, the 22-year-old had to shut off her phone just so she could absorb her new reality,

Joseph Costello

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Colleen, Joseph and Rich Costello.

A native of Englewood, Ohio, near Dayton, Costello became the first student to win the four-year scholarship. While he doesn't know what he wants to major in yet, as college is still a few years away, he has his sights set on University of Dayton, The Ohio State University and Miami University in Ohio.

“Yeah, still not processing it that well,” he said about winning the scholarship.

His mother Colleen took the call from DeWine about her son winning the scholarship. She was having lunch with her colleagues telling him how her life could be changed forever because she entered the Vax-a-Million drawing. Then she got the call.

She laughed because at first she didn’t recognize the number on her phone but decided to pick it up anyways.

“It was the governor on the line and at first I didn’t think it was really,” said Colleen, who then called her husband right away with the news.

Rich was grading school papers with a cup of coffee when his wife called him about the news.

"Just a memorable night. Let's face it. I would say that it's the kind of thing that just happens, you know, maybe once in your lifetime, probably not. So that was just a lot of excitement around it," he said.

The lottery’s role in getting a vaccine

Bugenske received her Moderna vaccine long before the announcement of the lottery. But when she heard about the lottery, she immediately signed up.

“It was a great idea just hearing the numbers of how many people signed up just because of this vaccine million idea. It's clearly working. And I think that's great,” she said of the Vax-a-Million lottery.

Rich Costello, who is a school teacher, received his two doses in February. His wife Colleen, a chemical engineer, received her two doses in April. When the family heard about the lottery, they quickly scheduled vaccination appointments for the rest of their family.

“We had intended to get all of our children vaccinated by the end of this month. But because of the initial entry deadline for the contest, we pulled that date forward and made sure that everyone was vaccinated. So it did accelerate the timing for us. And we were excited about the opportunity and it definitely influenced our decision to get it in the time frame that we got it,” Colleen said.

Scholarship money

DeWine said Thursday that the scholarship money will be put in a 529 account. The amount of money allotted to each winner is based on the cost of the highest state university. It will cover books, room and board and tuition.

DeWine said he told the Costello family that the money can be applied to any college, even a private one.

“If they select to take that money and go, for example, to the University of Dayton or somewhere else, they have every right to do that," he said.

The next drawing

More than two million Ohioans entered the drawing to win a $1 million prize, and 104,386 Ohioans age 12 to 17 entered the drawing for a college scholarship.

The entry period for the next Ohio Vax-a-Million drawing ends May 30 at 11:59 p.m.

The Vax-a-Million program, which is being run by the Ohio Lottery and the Ohio Department of Health, is awarding one vaccinated adult Ohio resident with $1 million each Wednesday for the next five weeks. The names of the winners will be announced live on-air during a special Ohio Lottery broadcast on News 5 Cleveland at 7:29 p.m. each Wednesday.

The winner of a full-ride scholarship to an Ohio university will also be announced every Wednesday night; that winner is drawn from a pool of vaccinated Ohioans aged 12-17.

RELATED: Woman from Silverton, near Cincinnati, wins Ohio's first Vax-a-Million drawing

Visit our Vaccinating Ohio page for the latest updates on Ohio's vaccination program, including links to sign up for a vaccine appointment, a map of nearby vaccination sites, a detailed breakdown of the state's current vaccine phase, and continuing local coverage of COVID-19 vaccines in Northeast Ohio.

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