‘I’m still not really processing it’: first Vax-a-Million winners share reactions

Gov. Mike DeWine and first lady Fran DeWine visited with Joseph Costello, center, who won the first of five full-ride scholarships May 26, 2021, as part of the Ohio Vax-a-Million lottery.
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Gov. Mike DeWine and first lady Fran DeWine visited with Joseph Costello, center, who won the first of five full-ride scholarships May 26, 2021, as part of the Ohio Vax-a-Million lottery.

The first winners of Ohio’s Vax-a-Million campaign joined Gov. Mike DeWine for a press conference Thursday morning, sharing their reactions to when they found out they won the $1 million cash prize and full college scholarship.

The winners of the campaign’s first drawings were announced Wednesday night on live television as Abbigail Bugenske, a 22-year-old who grew up in the Shaker Heights area and now lives in Silverton, and Joseph Costello, a 14-year-old Englewood boy who just finished the eighth grade at Northmont Middle School.

ExploreDeWine visits Englewood teen who wins Vax-a-Million scholarship

Costello said he found out he won the full college scholarship when he spoke to a representative from the governor’s office in his driveway.

He said he was in the car with his dad, Rich, but that his dad didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

“I said, ‘Joe, it’s good news, but no questions. Just look out the window,’” Rich Costello said.

His mother, Colleen, said when she first spoke to DeWine on the phone she thought it was a recording at first.

“I thought maybe I was listening to your voice and it was a taped message,” she said. “I was really thankful at that moment that there was a bench nearby.”

Joseph Costello, middle, and his parents Colleen and Rich shared their reactions to Joseph winning the full college scholarship as part of Ohio's Vax-a-Million campaign.
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Joseph Costello, middle, and his parents Colleen and Rich shared their reactions to Joseph winning the full college scholarship as part of Ohio's Vax-a-Million campaign.

Earlier while having lunch with colleagues, Colleen Costello said she even mentioned that her life could change that day.

“They said why and I said, ‘Well I entered myself and all of our family members into the Vax-a-Million lottery so one of us could win it,’” she said.

Colleen and Rich Costello both had previously received the vaccine and were planning to have their three children vaccinated by the end of the month, she said. However, once the Vax-a-Million campaign was announced, they decided to vaccinate them sooner.

All their children responded well to the vaccine, and all had some arm soreness, Colleen Costello said.

Joseph Costello said he isn’t sure what he wants to study in college yet, but said he’s interested in going to Miami University or Ohio State University.

“I’m still not really processing it that well,” he said.

While the scholarship was initially announced as a full ride at any public Ohio college or university, DeWine explained that the scholarship could be applied to a private school.

ExploreOhio Lottery conducts first of five Vax-a-Million drawings

The amount of the scholarship will be based off the highest state university and could be applied to a private university, he said.

Joseph’s mother said it was “an easy decision” for their family to get vaccinated.

“We always knew we wanted to do it,” Colleen Costello said. “From my perspective, it’s a win-win situation.”

Bugenske, a 22-year-old living in Silverton and working for GE Aviation, was driving to see her parents when she found out she won the $1 million prize.

“I thought it was a prank call initially,” she said. “It’s a Wednesday I’ll never forget.”

Abbigail Bugenske, a 22-year-old who grew up in Shaker Heights and now lives in Silverton, shared her reaction to winning $1 million through Ohio's Vax-a-Million campaign.
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Abbigail Bugenske, a 22-year-old who grew up in Shaker Heights and now lives in Silverton, shared her reaction to winning $1 million through Ohio's Vax-a-Million campaign.

Bugenske said she got her first dose of the vaccine the first week she was eligible.

She added that she hasn’t thought a lot about how she’ll spend the cash prize, but will likely donate some to charity and invest it. Bugenske added that she previously was planning to look at buying a used car and said she thinks that’s “still in my future.”

Wednesday night, DeWine shared a picture of the Costellos on his personal Twitter account.

“Congrats, Joseph! You just won a full-ride college scholarship!” he tweeted.

ExploreVax-a-Million: What are the rules for Ohio’s $1 million prizes?

The five-week campaign aims to increase awareness and encourage Ohioans to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Prior to the drawing on Monday, more than 2.75 million adults had registered for the cash prize and nearly 105,000 youths entered the drawing for the scholarship.

Winner must be a permanent Ohio resident and have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The next drawing is scheduled for Memorial Day, May 31. To register, visit https://www.ohiovaxamillion.com/ or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

Ohioans who registered for the first drawing but did not win do not need to sign up again. Their entries will be carried over to the next drawing.