Bloomfield Twp. woman wins $2M grand prize in 'MI Shot to Win' sweepstakes'

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

A Bloomfield Township woman won the $2 million grand prize in a state sweepstakes designed to increase COVID-19 vaccinations among Michigan residents.

Christine Duval's windfall was announced by state officials Monday during a virtual news conference.

"Winning the MI Shot to Win grand prize will help us achieve all of our dreams," said Duval, a mother of three who immigrated to Metro Detroit from Montreal, Canada, about 13 years ago. "MercÍ, Michigan. Thank you so much."

Duval joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state officials as the final round of winners were named in the MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes. There were eight $50,000 daily drawings and nine students who won four-year college scholarships.

The $2 million grand prize winner said the money will come in handy for Duval's family. She said when the pandemic began, she left her job as a project manager in Troy to stay home and help her youngest with school after it switched to online learning. Her children are ages 18, 15 and 10.

She said she and her husband, Philippe, both got their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in April at a CVS/Pharmacy in Southfield. Duval also said her two oldest children have also received their COVID-19 vaccines, but their youngest hasn't. Pfizer's vaccine has yet to be authorized for use in children younger than 12. 

Duval said she and her husband plan to use the money to help pay for her children's education, remodel their home and to donate some of the funds to bolster mental health services in their community. 

Whitmer called the sweepstakes "a success," noting after the effort began July 1, the number of first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan in the first week of July climbed from about 28,000 to about 41,000 in the month's final week.

"Every public health expert will tell you the middle of the summer always shows lower vaccinations, worse than any other time of year, whether it's for chickenpox, measles, or COVID-19," she said. "But the sweepstakes helped Michigan reverse that trend."

A recent Detroit News analysis of federal data however showed that the state saw one of the smallest increases nationally in vaccine coverage during July. 

From July 1 to July 21, the percentage of all state residents with at least one dose moved from 51.5% to 52.5%, a change of 1 percentage point, according to tracking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only eight other states had an increase equal to or less than that over the same period, according to the CDC numbers.

State officials have noted that the sweepstakes is one strategy, especially during the summertime lull, and it deployed to sustain and help create urgency. 

A screenshot from the final "Mi Shot to Win" lottery award presentation.

State officials said Monday the lottery helped boost state’s vaccination rates from 61% to 63% in July. The state’s goal is 70%. Michigan’s current vaccination rate exceeds 65%, according to state’s most recent data on its COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard.

The sweepstakes awarded prizes to Michiganians who received their COVID-19 vaccine. The lottery, which ended July 30, gave out $5 million in total prizes. 

The eight $50,000 daily drawing winners announced Monday were Todd Demeyers of Oakland Township; Alyssa Armstrong of Caledonia; Caleb Nielsen of Paw Paw; Brandon Ebright of Okemos; Kevin Underwood of Lowell; Brian Kulesz of Sterling Heights; Breya Matthews of Grand Rapids; and Jacqueline Paul of Indian River.

Kerry Ebersole Singh, director of the Protect Michigan Commission, said Paul thought she was being scammed when officials called her to let her know she won the prize. 

"But our persistence paid off," Ebersole Singh said.

The commission is an advisory group to the governor and the state's Department of Health and Human Services and educates communities about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

"I wanted to get vaccinated for COVID-19 because my mother's getting older and she and my brothers often come to visit me," said Paul, who had to have eye surgery during the height of the pandemic. "I didn't want to jeopardize their health or anybody else's."

Paul, who has an immune system disorder called Graves' disease, said she was initially reluctant to get the vaccine, but did it after getting advice from her doctor. She thanked him and his team Monday.

"I may not ever be able to repay your kindness," she said. "But with my sweepstakes prize, I'll be able to pay my medical bills."

Also Monday, nine Michigan students won college scholarships in the contest.

Those winners include: Meadow Surman of Waterford; Ian Miller of Plymouth; Mallory Wheeler of Reading; Josiah DeBaets of Eastern High School in Kent County; Karan Choudhary of Canton; Jackson Wittwer and Landon Burkhart, both of Macomb Township; Hudson Chambers of Grand Rapids; and Kamare Wright of Redford.

Mallory Wheeler said she got her vaccine because she's seen first hand how the pandemic has turned the world upside down.

"My school has been greatly affected by COVID," the 17 year-old said. "We've been put online multiple times and I have been quarantined numerous times."

She urges everyone to get their vaccine, too.

"Please just do your part in keeping everybody healthy and safe by getting the vaccine."

Wheeler said she hasn't decided for what college she'll use the scholarship, but plans on pursuing a career in the medical field.

Since the sweepstakes started, more than 2.4 million people entered the contest for cash and 160,000 students signed up for the college scholarship drawing, officials said. 

The contest was a collaboration between Michigan-based retailer Meijer, the Michigan Association of United Ways, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and other groups.

In July, officials announced LaTonda Anderson, of Grand Blanc, won $1 million in the COVID vaccine sweepstakes.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez