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Ohio’s Vax-a-Million winners announced: Who won $1 million vaccine lottery, scholarship

WLWT Cincinnati logo WLWT Cincinnati 6/3/2021
Yisroel Dovid Weiss smiling for the camera: . © Mike DeWine .

Ohio's second Vax-a-Million winners were revealed Wednesday evening.

During a highly-anticipated drawing, Ohio Lottery officials announced that the following individuals won Ohio's vaccine lottery -- the second of five total drawings:

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Jonathan Carlyle, Toledo (Lucas County)


Zoie Vincent, Mayfield Village (Cuyahoga County)

Both of the winners are expected to be introduced during a Thursday morning press briefing.

Carlyle is an Amazon delivery driver. He said he was just getting off work around 7 p.m. when he received a call from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

"I actually missed the call," Carlyle said Wednesday evening. "I was checking out from work and had to call him back. But I was shaking when I talked to him, when I heard his voicemail -- I knew what it was and about lost it."

The governor said he plans to make a habit of calling the state's Vax-a-Million winners ahead of each Wednesday's 7:29 p.m. drawing.

“It’s overwhelming. I don’t know what to do. I’m still dreaming," Carlyle said of that call.

The Toledo man said he doesn't have any big plans for his new money -- first pay off bills, then, perhaps, a house.

"I got a lot of bills to pay – so that’s the first thing that’s going to happen,” he said through a massive smile.

“Pay some bills and probably buy a house. I’m going to keep working. My girlfriend is going to keep working – it’s going to be a good bedrock for our family. It’s going to be awesome.”

Carlyle said the state's Vax-a-Million drawing actually inspired him to finally get the COVID-19 vaccine. After winning $1 million, he said it was well worth it.

"Get vaccinated! Do it! We need to!" he said.

Zoie Vincent was announced as Ohio's full-ride scholarship winner Wednesday evening. Vincent was out of town at the time of the drawing but found out of her luck via a FaceTime call from the governor.

More than 3.2 million Ohioans entered their names for a shot at the $1 million, up from the 2.8 million who had registered for last week's drawing. More than 133,000 children entered their names for the scholarship, up from just over 104,000 last week.

"I am pleased that leading into the holiday weekend, data continued to show that our Ohio Vax-a-Million promotion continued to increase COVID-19 vaccinations compared to the period before the promotion announcement," said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. "The vaccine remains our most powerful tool to fight the virus and for Ohioans to protect themselves and others. I encourage anyone considering getting the vaccine to not delay and take advantage of both vaccination opportunities and the Ohio Vax-a-Million promotion."

The names were actually drawn Monday using a random number generator, to leave time to confirm recipients' eligibility. Vax-a-Million is open to permanent Ohio residents who have received either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their first part of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccination.

Didn't win this week? Don't worry. After Wednesday night, three more $1 million and college scholarship winners will be announced each Wednesday for the next three weeks.

The entry period for the next Ohio Vax-a-Million drawing ends June 6, 2021, at 11:59:59 p.m.

Abbigail Bugenske, last week's winner of $1 million learned of her good fortune just minutes before her name was drawn when DeWine called as she was driving to her parents' home in suburban Cleveland. The mom of Joseph Costello, the college scholarship winner, was leaving work when the governor called and had to sit down, she was so shocked.

WLWT will update this story as additional details are announced.


Is that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on the phone? You may have just won $1 million.

If you win $1 million or a full-ride scholarship through Ohio's Vax-a-Million vaccine lottery, you will likely know before Wednesday's scheduled announcement.

Winners are slated to be announced each Wednesday at 7:29 p.m. through June 23.

But for the lucky winners chosen, they will likely find out even earlier -- via a personal call with the governor.

"Yea, I hope to call the winners. That would be my intent, at least, in the future," DeWine told us Thursday.

DeWine actually called the first two Vax-a-Million winners in the hours leading up to Wednesday's 7:29 p.m. announcement, telling them personally that they had won.

"Calling someone and telling them they just won a million dollars is a great thing. Calling a family and telling them they have a scholarship paid for four years is also fun. Fran (DeWine's wife) and I enjoyed it a lot," he said.

The winners are actually selected two days before the big announcement via a random drawing. It takes time to verify the winners -- they have to have at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine and be a permanent Ohio resident.

The lottery announced that Abbigail Bugenske of Silverton near Cincinnati was the $1 million winners, while Joseph Costello of Englewood near Dayton was the college scholarship winner.


Abbigail Bugenske has won Ohio's first $1 million jackpot in the state's Vax-a-Million lottery.

A recent college graduate, the 22-year-old Bugenske lives in the Cincinnati area, residing in the small and quiet village of Silverton about 11 miles northeast of the city.

She works for GE Aviation, recently moving to the area for her job.

She's also an Ohio State University student pursuing a master's in aerospace engineering and graduated from Michigan State University in August of last year.

Speaking to the press for the first time Thursday, Bugenske said she has no plans to quit her current job — a job she loves — and plans to donate at least some of her winnings to charity.

“I was completely surprised when I got the call. I still can’t believe it. It was a crazy night," the 22-year-old said.

Bugenske received a personal call from Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday evening, shortly before the state's 7:29 p.m. drawing.

“Calling someone and telling them that they won a million dollars is a great thing," the governor said through a large smile, remembering Bugenske's reaction.

Video: Ohio's first $1 million Vax-a-Million winner is from Greater Cincinnati (WLWT Cincinnati)


She was driving from the Cincinnati area to her parents' house in the Cleveland area, a bit oblivious that the drawing was currently happening.

“I was screaming enough that my parents thought I was crying and that something was wrong," she said. "And when I started yelling that I won $1 million and 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.”

The call was, in fact, real. Bugenske said her phone began to blow up with notes from friends and social media friend requests.

The 22-year-old said she received the COVID-19 vaccine long before the birth of the Vax-a-Million program, but added that if winning $1 million isn't an incentive enough, she doesn't know what is.

“I originally got vaccinated just to protect friends, family and everyone I came in contact with,” she said, adding that Vax-a-Million win was just a bonus.

More than 2.7 million adults signed up for the $1 million prize and more than 104,000 children ages 12 to 17 entered the drawing for the college scholarship, which includes tuition, room and board, and books.

Joseph Costello, 14, of Englewood, won the first lottery for a full-ride scholarship.

Four more $1 million and college scholarship winners will be announced each Wednesday for the next four weeks.

DeWine, a Republican, announced the program on May 12 to boost lagging vaccination rates.

Meet Vax-a-Million's first scholarship winner

He’s only 14, but can attend almost any college he wishes.

Joseph Costello, of Englewood, was announced as Ohio's first Vax-a-Million scholarship winner, awarded a full-ride scholarship at only 14 years old.

His mother is a chemical engineer and his father is a school teacher. But neither of them will need to figure out how to pay for Joseph's college.

“My first reaction was I thought maybe I was listening to your voice -- that it was a taped message," mother Colleen Costello told Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine Thursday. "The more we talked, the more I realized it was really live. I was really thankful that moment because there was a bench nearby. I needed to sit down and sort of ... ground myself a little to absorb the information you were sharing.”

Joseph had just finished the eighth grade. He just received his first shot on Saturday ahead of Wednesday evening's drawing.

His mother entered Joseph and her two other children in the lottery.

Now, he gets free college tuition. That scholarship also includes room, board and books. However, winning a scholarship does not guarantee admission.

In a big update Thursday, DeWine announced that the state will put money into a 529 Plan for the winner. The amount of money put in will be equal to the highest Ohio state university cost. That way, the winner can still go to a college of his or her choosing.

Joseph said Thursday he's still unsure what he wants to study, or which university he wishes to attend. But the 14-year-old still has time to think about that.



Individuals can also opt-in for eligibility by calling 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

Previously, Ohio residents didn't have to do anything to have a shot at the big money.

But upon reflection, those in charge of the Shot-ery Sweepstakes, so to speak, found the process would be too chancy and cumbersome.

Names from the state's voting database were to be included automatically. But the options to provide contact information were considered too varied.

"That could slow down our ability to locate them and obviously we want to move this as quickly as we can," explained Stephanie McCloud, director of the Ohio Health Department.

"And we want to be able to contact and verify them within that 48 hours."


Five vaccinated adults will be chosen at random in five separate weekly drawings to win $1 million.

That $1 million will be taxed.

To be eligible, you need to be an Ohio resident and at least 18 years old. Additionally, Ohioans must have at least one dose of a vaccine by 11:59 p.m. Sunday before that week's drawing.

If you were vaccinated in another state, you can still register as long as you are a permanent Ohio resident.


There are incentives for young people too. Five vaccinated Ohioans aged 12 to 17 will be chosen at random to win a full four-year scholarship.

That scholarship includes tuition, room and board and books at any Ohio university. The same rules apply. You must have at least one shot of the vaccine by the time of the drawing.

They can opt-in on their own -- at the same website — but should their name be drawn they would need a parent or legal guardian to verify their information.


The first of five winners will be announced May 26, with four consecutive winners announced each Wednesday that follows.

Winners will be announced at 7:29 p.m.


The Ohio Department of Health will be the sponsoring agency for the drawings, and the Ohio Lottery will conduct them.

Winners will need to verify their vaccination status and will be asked to provide their vaccine card.

Up to 100 alternative names would be drawn if the winner cannot be verified as vaccinated, which begs the question about a potential criminal penalty since we're talking about such a large lump sum payout once taxes are deducted.

"I don't think there'll be any penalty," stated Gov. Mike DeWine. "We're not interested in penalties. We're interested in incentivizing people, kind of giving them one more fun reason to be vaccinated."

The lottery will conduct the drawings and says it has the capacity for up to 10 million entries.

The drawings will be on the next five Mondays. The winners will be known on the following Wednesdays.

"We have beefed up everything," said Maureen Hall, CIO of the Ohio Lottery. "And we certainly have the security protocols in place to ensure minimal downtime if it happens."


Were you to win the Ohio Lottery $468 million Mega-Millions drawing, you could set up a trust and remain anonymous.

Winners of Vax-a-Million will not be allowed to do that.

Their names will be public.


The money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds, the governor said.

DeWine said he expected criticism about his decision to use federal relief bill dollars.

But he brushed it off by saying "It has not been done before. It's unusual. But these are unusual times."


An Ohio lawmaker is drafting a bill to end Ohio’s Vax-a-Million giveaway and others like it.

Rep. Jena Powell called the $1 million lottery for vaccination Ohioans a “frivolous use of taxpayer dollars.”

The Republicans said funds should be used in other ways, such as addressing children’s mental health.

"We don't need Governor DeWine giving us an award for getting a shot like when we were kids. Ohioans are smart/wise people who make decisions for themselves. The vaccine lottery is a frivolous use of taxpayer dollars," Powell tweeted.

She said she plans to formally introduce her bill this week. It’s the latest legislative effort to limit Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s authority throughout the pandemic.

DeWine cast aside questions about Powell’s bill on Monday afternoon, pointing to increasing vaccination numbers as proof his vaccine lottery idea is working.

“We’ve seen increases really across all demographic groups,” DeWine said. “That’s a very, very good thing.”

The biggest increase in vaccinations in the 16- to 17-year-old age group: a 94% increase. Among 18- 19-year-olds, there has been a 46% increase. From the 20-49 age group, there has been a 55% increase in vaccinations, the governor said.

READ THE FULL STORY:Ohio’s Vax-a-Million winners announced: Who won $1 million vaccine lottery, scholarship

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