Kelly Shea of Marengo couldn’t believe it when the numbers VFW’s senior vice commander Ben Keefe listed off a randomly pulled ticket from the bin corresponded to the ones printed on her red ticket. This was the first time in five weeks that her ticket was drawn.
Weaving through the white picnic tables and droves of people standing to take pictures, Shea took her place at the front, awaiting her fate. Hers and everyone else’s eyes in the room were following Dwane Lungren, McHenry Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4600 manager, as he walked to the front with a brown envelope with “42” labeled on it.
With her hands covering her mouth and tears welling in her eyes, Shea watched as Keefe slowly pulled a 10 of hearts out of the envelope. A chorus of exasperated sighs and groans erupted in the packed room.
“I felt like I was going to faint,” Shea said. “But I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.”
And Shea may be right. The outcome of the Tuesday night drawing means that the VFW Queen of Hearts raffle will continue for another week, increasing the jackpot from $1.4 million to more than $1.5 million for next week’s raffle.
The winner of the raffle would take home 60 percent of the pot, with 20 percent going back to the VFW and the other 20 going to the next pot. Of that 60 percent, 33 percent of it will go to toward state and federal taxes.
If the long-awaited queen of hearts is pulled from the brown envelope next week, the jackpot winner stands to take home about $630,000 after taxes.
With an increase in the stakes comes a considerable increase in popularity. The VFW has seen ticket sales increase anywhere between 20 percent and 30 percent each week. With sales of $141,000 just last week, Lungren projects sales to be over $185,000 after this week.
On June 4, the McHenry City Council voted to raise the maximum payout limit on raffle prizes to $3 million. With this new regulation, the VFW is able to raise the pot to $5 million, and with 20 cards now left on the table, Lungren expects the excitement to continue to increase.
“A bigger jackpot means a bigger appeal,” Lungren said. “The increase in exposure has brought in a lot more people.”
Ticket sales for next week’s drawing will begin Wednesday. Tickets are sold at the VFW and the bar every day except Monday, when the building generally is closed.