DENVER, Colo. — Sally Sliger, a health care worker and clinical data analyst from Mead, was announced Friday as the first $1 million prize winner in the Colorado Comeback Cash vaccine lottery.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis brought Sliger and her husband, Chris, to the governor’s mansion to make the announcement Friday afternoon and sign over a large check for the first recipient of five $1 million prizes the state is giving away to adult Coloradans who have received at least one vaccine dose.
Sliger said she was born in Colorado and raised in Longmont, and that she and Chris have lived in Mead, in Weld County, for a little over 20 years, where they raised their sons. She works as a clinical data analyst with a Lafayette-based company.
“So, the odds of me and my family being given $1 million overnight seemed impossibly small,” Sliger said. “Even with this winning, I’m still having a hard time believing our luck of the draw.”
She said the past year, as has been the case for most people around the world, was “the most difficult year of our lives” and that she jumped at the opportunity to get vaccinated as soon as she could. Sliger got her first dose in March and her second in April, she said.
“Like all the rest of us, we’ve postponed family events, canceled events we’ve had for decades, postponed memorial services,” she said. “A year of hosting and attending Zoom birthday parties.”
She said she got vaccinated to protect herself, her family and community from COVID-19.
“That already felt like a big win to me,” she said. Some of her family members had severe cases, and she said she had dear friends who have lost family members – one of whom had to delay a memorial service for their father.
“It was just a tragic experience for everyone,” she said.
Sliger said she received a text from someone at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Wednesday while she was in a meeting. The message asked her to call back as soon as she could.
“So, I did call back right away, excused myself from that meeting. They indicated I was a potential winner as long as I met the eligibility criteria,” Sliger said. “…It was surreal. I still haven’t really quite gotten there yet.”
She said she and her husband plan to invest in their future – putting money into the retirement account, helping their sons pay off student loans, and doing some work around the house. But they’re still working on planning out what to do with their money.
“A stable future after the last year we’ve had is worth all the money in the world,” Sliger said, encouraging others to get vaccinated if they have not yet. “But, of course, it doesn’t hurt to take your chance at a million dollars as well.”
Polis said 431 Coloradans remain hospitalized from the virus as of Friday and called the virus’s prevalence “so unnecessary.”
“We have a vaccine that works. There’s simply no need for this ongoing pandemic when we have the tools to stop it and it only takes 15 or 20 minutes of your time,” the governor said.
Polis reiterated the correlation between counties that have the highest vaccination rates also having the lowest case counts, and that the inverse was the case in counties with the lowest vaccination rates, including Mesa, El Paso and Pueblo counties. The Associated Press reported Friday that most of the people still hospitalized for COVID-19 in Colorado are not vaccinated.
The state will announce the next million-dollar winners each of the next Fridays for the next four weeks. Colorado will also announce each Friday starting next week five $50,000 scholarship winners for Colorado kids ages 12-17 who have been vaccinated. There will be 25 scholarships handed out in total.
Polis said he hopes that putting a face to a prize-winner would help encourage more people that have been hesitant to get vaccinated to do so before Sunday so they can be eligible for the money as well.
“There’s a million reasons to get your COVID vaccine today. And everybody that gets vaccinated and protected is a winner,” he said. “…Now. There’s a public face to our first winner showing everyone can win. That will help drive Coloradans who have been putting it off to simply get it done.”
This story was originally published by Blair Miller at KMGH.