When a Discover Card representative called Bill Kirkpatrick a month ago to tell him he’d won something in the company’s sweepstakes, he knew it could be one of two prizes: $25,000 or $1 million.
He just wasn’t sure which one.
But when Discover arranged for a limo to take Kirkpatrick, his wife and his son to the Metra station in Northbrook on Monday morning for a trip on the 8:33 train to Union Station, they began to get their hopes up. And when they stepped off the train to the blinding flash of cameras and a cheering crowd, they knew.
They had won $1 million.
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An 11-year Northbrook resident and manager at Walgreens’ downtown office, Kirkpatrick was the grand prize winner in Discover Card’s yearly “Everyday Giveaway Sweepstakes.” Every time a Discover Card customer uses the credit card, he or she is entered into the sweepstakes. Each month, one person wins $25,000 and Discover gives an additional $25,000 to a local high school of the winner’s choice. Only one person wins $1 million each year.
“It was the easiest sweepstakes in the world to enter,” jokes Kirkpatrick. “There’s your headline.”
At Union Station Monday, a Discover Card representative led Kirkpatrick and his family through the crowds to an area roped off by the ticket counter, where Discover Card Chairman and CEO David Nelms presented them with a giant check for $1 million. Then Discover’s representatives served them slices of an enormous cake.
“The whole thing was basically kind of a surreal event,” says Kirkpatrick. “I felt amazingly calm through the entire thing.”
“We were very happy, obviously, and very thankful,” he adds.
Discover provided them with a limo to use for the rest of the day, and a gift card to celebrate, so they visited the Shedd Aquarium, splurged on lunch at the Peninsula Hotel and went to see a Bulls game. The Bulls lost, but the Kirkpatricks didn’t care.
As for the money? Kirkpatrick notes that about one third will go to the federal government in taxes—“We look at that as a contribution to reducing the national debt,” he jokes.
The rest will go toward paying for his eighth grade son’s college education, paying off the mortgage and perhaps a vacation to Hawaii.
“We’re not ones to go do a lot of impulsive, not thinking things through kind of things,” he says.
Kirkpatrick says he expects the charities his family already donates to will be feeling a little more love in the future. Locally, one nonprofit the Kirkpatricks are involved with is the Hunger Resource Network, an organization that distributes food to pantries and shelters around the Chicago area.
While the $1 million windfall will buy a lot of things, one thing that’s not on the list is a bigger house or a move to a tropical locale, Kirkpatrick says.
“We’re quite happy where we are,” he says. “We like the schools, we have terrific neighbors, we like the way the village works.”