Nicole Hansen sold 15 tickets this year for Ticket to Ride, the annual event that raises money for cancer care services supported by the St. Francis Foundation.
Two of them were winners, including the grand prize winning ticket she sold to her grandmother, Lois Melsen of Grand Island. Melsen clasped her hands to her mouth in surprise when her name was announced Thursday evening by Tom Dinsdale, the owner of Dinsdale Chevrolet that sponsors Ticket to Ride, now in its 14th year.
Just before Dinsdale made the announcement, it was noted that the winner was standing in the Dinsdale showroom. Melsen said that caused her to look around to see who the winner might be.
"I never win anything," she said following the drawing, which prompted a number of friends and well-wishers to come up and congratulate her.
But this year, Melsen and her husband, Virgil, have won either a 2016 Chevy Sonic, a 2014 Hyundai Elantra, a 2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe, a 2014 Hyundai Veloster or $15,000 in cash.
Melsen said she would have to return home Thursday night and talk with her husband about which prize to accept. Melsen has purchased tickets the past three years, all from her granddaughter, Nicole. Nicole's husband, Ryan Hansen, has been involved with Ticket to Ride for the past three years, including serving as chairman this year.
Each year, Ticket to Ride makes a maximum of 999 tickets available for the drawing. Hansen noted that this year's Ticket to Ride sold a total of 704 tickets. "Any time you've sold more than 700 tickets, you've had a good campaign," Hansen said. Each ticket costs $100.
Hansen is a member of the St. Francis Foundation Board, which explains his involvement the past several years in the Ticket to Ride fundraiser. Because of Ryan's involvement, Nicole said, she has tried to do her part by selling individual tickets for each of the past three years.
Nicole said she sold 15 tickets this year. Incredibly enough, the other winning ticket was sold to her mother, Billie Guyette of Grand Island. Even more incredibly, that ticket was for a $500 Visa card donated by Ryan and Nicole, as well as Gary and Susy Tournor.
When Guyette's name was drawn, Derek Apfel, who served as a master of ceremonies, jokingly asked the Hansens if it would have been easier to just give her the $500.
The drawings were all on the up-and-up with all the names drawn from a wire drum that was spun before the 10 names were picked out of the pile of 704 tickets. But a smiling Nicole acknowledged that if she sells tickets again next year, a lot of people might want to buy from her because she had something of a hot hand this year in selling winning tickets.
Meanwhile, Melsen, has volunteered in the gift shop at CHI St. Francis since 2006, said she always felt the money she spent on her tickets the have gone to a very good cause. Melsen said that during a recent luncheon to honor volunteers, she was recognized for working a total of 1,000 volunteer hours over the past 10 years.
Melsen said she's always enjoyed her volunteer job because she made friends with so many nice employees at the hospital and has also met lots of nice people who have visited the gift shop to buy items for family members or friends who have been hospitalized.
The ticket winners were drawn at a Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce business function hosted at Dinsdale Chevrolet, sponsor of Ticket to Ride. In addition to grand prize winners Virgil and Lois Melsen, the following people are the winners of prizes worth $500:Tyler Dishman of Central City, a $500 Conestoga Mall Gift Card donated by Conestoga Mall.Dawn Gilbert of Hastings, a $500 grocery Gift Card donated by Super Saver.Gerri Zrust of Grand Island, a $500 Gas Card donated by Tom and Sue Pirnie.Richard Kuehner of Phillips, a $500 Visa Card donated by Agricultural Services, Inc.Brian Fausch of Grand Island, a $500 Visa Card donated by Arby's of Grand Island.Barry Keslar of Grand Island, a $500 Visa Card donated by Lacy Construction.Barb Schleichart of Grand Island, a $500 Visa Card donated by FBFS Lisa Huismann Agent.Central City Bank employees, a $500 Visa Card donated by Kim and Russ Rerucha.Billie Guyette of Grand Island, a $500 Visa card donated by Ryan and Nicole Hansen and Gary and Susy Tournor.