Allison Young says winning free rent for a year has "brought a lot of happiness and excitement to the family"
Allison Young has played HQ Trivia since the mega popular quiz app first launched in the summer of 2017, and won a grand total of two dollars — until now.
On Jan. 21, the Virginia resident’s luck turned around when she made it through all twelve rounds of a special musical-themed game sponsored by FOX to celebrate the launch of RENT, which airs live on Sunday, Jan. 27 on FOX. From all those who did so, she was randomly selected as the lucky winner. Her prize, appropriately, is free rent for a year.
The mom of three, 59, spoke with PEOPLE about her reaction to the news, and the positive impact she thinks the prize of $25,000 is going to have on her family’s life.
“I was actually in the house sitting in the family room, and I had tweeted to [HQ] because I wasn’t sure how they were gonna let the people who had won that game know,” she tells PEOPLE. (During a normal round of HQ, prize money is split between everyone who answers all the questions correctly).
Young nearly didn’t pick up the life-changing call, she admits. “My phone rang and it said North Carolina, so I didn’t answer it because I didn’t recognize the number.”
Left to Right: Allison’s husband Kevin, daughter Alanna, Allison, daughter-in-law Kelly, son Alex, daughter Annika and their pet beagle, Jake.
Meanwhile, her youngest daughter, Annika, who introduced her to the game, was skeptical of the possibility that they could be the winners at all. “My daughter said, ‘Why are you doing all this, you’re never gonna win,’ and I said, ‘Well, you never know.'”
“They called back right away after that, so I thought, ‘Well I probably should answer this,'” she explains. “When [Scott, the host] said ‘Is this Allison Young, and did you play HQ?’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is really happening?’ It was kind of a blur … it’s just been kind of a whirlwind ever since then.”
Young had been a stay-at-home mom until Annika recently went away to nursing school in Chicago, and shares that as the family owns their home in Manassas, Virginia, the money will go to paying off their mortgage, her daughter’s college tuition and some of her husband Kevin’s medical bills. The couple, who have been married for 34 years, and have three children together — Alex, 30, Alanna, 27, and Annika, 20 — also recently adopted a beagle, rescued from hurricane Florence, in October and have three cats.
“This is really gonna be very helpful, you know, we have some bills to pay,” she says of her initial reaction to the news. “I went upstairs and told my husband and he was like ‘No, you didn’t [win]’ and I was like ‘Yeah, I did!'” she shares. “It kind of went crazy from there, and it was just fun, and it’s been fun ever since. Because nothing like that has ever happened to us, or to me.”
Young added that the money is really “coming at the right time,” as the current government shutdown is indirectly impacting her family’s finances.
“We’re not federal workers, but some of our income derives from federal contractors [who aren’t] getting paid, which means people are being very slow in paying us — not through any fault of their own — but it’s kind of trickling down, so it’s just a big help at just the right time, and I’m so grateful for it.”
HQ Trivia Host Scott Rogowsky calling to inform Young that she’d won
Young plays HQ, which can be downloaded on a smartphone and is hosted live daily, as often as she can but had only won small sums twice before. “The first two times were just for like 60 cents and a dollar,” she recalls.
The game is also a fun way to keep in touch with her daughter Annika, as the two tend to play and strategize together from their respective locations. “She’s on her phone in Chicago and I’m here, so one of us will typically get out — our strategy is, if neither of us knows, just pick different answers and the chances are one of us will be right,” she reveals.
Luckily, her daughter was on hand via FaceTime and was able to help her answer the one question that stumped Young during the musical round that she ultimately won. “It was just kind of luck, and I knew a lot of the answers and I didn’t have to use any extra lives or anything,” she explains, referring to the game’s option to use one extra life (earned by sharing the app with friends) per round in order to stay in the game. “Before I knew it, we were at the twelfth question, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I have a chance!'”
Young says the money will also allow her more time to continue the volunteer mentor work she does with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, an organization near to her heart. “I mentor two third grade girls once a week, and that’s something I really do enjoy. That’s something I want to get even more involved in,” she says.
“It’s really kind of a lightning bolt, and I’m just so appreciative,” Young tells PEOPLE. “It’s just nuts, and it’s brought a lot of happiness and excitement to the family. [We’re] pinching ourselves.”