"I was screaming enough that my parents thought that I was crying and that something was wrong," Abbey Bugenske said of the moment she found out she was the $1 million winner

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 27, 2021 04:28 PM
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Abbey Bugenske Vax-a-Million winner from Ohio
Credit: Office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine undoubtedly has its health benefits — and for one woman, getting the shots changed her net worth too.

On Wednesday night, Abbigail Bugenske became the first winner of Ohio's $1 million "Vax-a-Million" lottery, a campaign started by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine to help boost stalling vaccination rates in the state. (Ohioans who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine can enter the drawing).

During a press conference, 22-year-old Bugenske said she received a call from DeWine himself informing her she was a winner.

"I was screaming enough that my parents thought that I was crying and that something was wrong," she recalled, according to Cleveland.com. "When I started yelling that I had won $1 million and I was going to be a millionaire, they told me to calm down and make sure it wasn't a prank before I really started freaking out."

"I still can't believe it. It was a crazy night," Bugenske recalled, adding that she wants to use the money to help charities, invest and buy a used car.

Bugenske, a mechanical engineer who works for GE Aviation, said any doubts of the phone call being a prank subsided once she began receiving Instagram and Facebook requests from strangers. That tipped her off that the news had been announced publicly.

"That was it for me," she said.

The Vax-a-Million initiative has boosted vaccination rates by 45 percent in the state, DeWine said, as noted by CNN. About 2,758,470 Ohio residents entered the drawing for the $1 million payout.

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Bugenske said getting her shots — in her case, the Moderna vaccine — was a simple choice.

"Vaccines have always been in my medical history. It was a pretty easy decision to go and get the vaccine as fast as I could," Bugenske said, according to NBC News. "I would encourage anyone to get the vaccine. If winning $1 million isn't enough, I don't know what would be."

While vaccinated people over the age of 18 can enter the campaign, students aged 12 to 17 can win a full-ride college scholarship for participating. Joseph Costello of Englewood is the winner of the scholarship, it was announced on Wednesday night.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden commented on the lotteries during a Thursday trip to a vaccine clinic in Michigan.

"I think it's great," she said. "Anything it takes. You know it's kind of like getting your kids to eat their vegetables, promising, you know, you can get a toy or whatever. Whatever it takes, I'm in favor of it. Because that's the only way we're going to get this country back to what we were before."