Winning a contest is more exciting than receiving a conventional gift. You get goodies or money, but there a special satisfaction in knowing you measured up against others and came up the winner for whatever reason.
Experienced "contestants" don't really "expect" to win. But they are willing to throw their hat in the ring and try.
The lucky "chosen" few are generally thrilled -- considering the win a wonderful holiday surprise.
That was certainly the case with the three winners of the Daily Herald's recent "Room for Living" interior makeover package. They saw the notice for the contest, looked at the rooms in their home and decided to give it a try because without help, they knew their homes would not improve anytime soon, thanks to a lack of funds or time or both. In total, 145 people entered the contest this fall.
Amy and Harry Walters of Round Lake were the winners of the living room makeover, worth more than $10,000. They won $4,000 in furniture from Steinhafels in Vernon Hills and $6,000 in window treatments and flooring from OHi LLC of Elk Grove Village, as well as a $100 gift certificate for holiday decor from Treetime Christmas Creations in Lake Barrington.
In her entry letter, Amy wrote: "Last year I had 11 people living in my 1,200-square-foot house and it was very crowded. Now we have much more room. My two sons, the girlfriends and two grandbabies moved out a few months ago. Now it is just the hubby, two daughters and one grandson. Since my house is at a normal pace now, I would love to replace my couch and chair, get new carpet or at least clean the ones I have. I have four huge windows I would love to have window treatments for, too."
The Walters were thrilled to hear they have won. "I keep pinching myself because I never win anything! I have posted it on Facebook and even woke up my 80-year-old mother to tell her. Harry is really excited, too," Amy, an eBay vendor and bartender, admitted.
Harry is a gravel hauler who owns his own truck and regularly goes on leave when the weather turns cold and construction takes a hiatus, so they must always plan for that annual drop in income, Amy explained.
The Walters family has lived in their home since 2000. It is a two-story former summer cottage about a block from the lake, originally built around 1948 and now having three bedrooms and 1½ baths.
Amy is happily imagining how she will change her living room and make it more workable with a sectional couch, a wall-mounted television (freeing up floor space), an L-shaped desk (instead of the bulky roll-top) and maybe a couple of recliners. She also has plans to put down some new tile on the floor and put up some new window coverings that can insulate them from both the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.
"Our whole house is filled with used stuff. It will be really exciting to get new things!" she added.
Iris and Barry Gertz of Wheeling are the winners of the Bathtub/Shower Bathroom Makeover, valued at $6,500. The Gertzes have been living in a two-story townhouse for 33 years and their bathroom (which the entire family shares) is in desperate need of a renovation. The tub and all of the metal pieces (including the frame of the sliding shower door) is infected with a bad case of rust.
"I have been trying for 20 years to remodel our bathroom tub, which is the only tub in the house. Every time I had a plan, my husband lost a job or we had a major expense and we could not spend the money. Now my daughter is getting married so any money I wanted to use for a much needed remodel is going for the wedding. The mold in the seams is not healthy and as much as I try to clean it, I cannot make it go away," she wrote in her entry letter.
"When I heard we won, it made my week! I literally screamed in the office when I opened my email and then I called everyone I know. We have four people using that bathroom and it used to be five before my one daughter got married last month," Gertz told us.
Her prize package, provided by Bath Planet, will include a new tub and shower base, wall surrounds, new chrome plumbing fixtures, a corner caddie and a chrome shower rod. She will also get a $100 gift certificate for holiday decor from Treetime in Lake Barrington.
"I think I will choose a neutral tub and surrounds and also repaint the walls in a neutral color since I am tired of the aquamarine which is on the walls now," Iris said. "I am also going to try to get a new floor in there since the current one is cracking and looks bad. I wish I could do more, but I think that that will be it for now."
Iris is a corporate art consultant and Barry sells outside amenities like benches, flagpoles and playground equipment to schools, park districts and hospitals.
Jenna and Matt Kilday of Geneva won the interior doors makeover package, valued at $2,500 and provided by HomeStory Chicago. They also received a $100 Treetime gift certificate for holiday decor.
The Kildays have lived in their home for 18 months and they have hated their "uninspiring, drab, flat-panel doors" in the upstairs hall of their 1989 home. Jenna wrote in her entry that the doors "make the upstairs hallway so unbelievably dark and outdated. New doors would completely transform the hall and our master bathroom door was in such bad shape that we had to remove it and have yet to replace it."
"We were thrilled, we could not believe we had won," Jenna said. "We follow along with this contest every year. If we hadn't won, our doors would have stayed 'as is' for years and years, a project for the back-burners, especially with a new baby."
"We plan on getting white two-panel doors for a modern look and will paint the frames white to match and brighten the hall," she said.
Jenna is an account representative for a water treatment products company and Matt is a broker and manager for a consumer packaged goods company. Their son, Cameron, was born in early October.
In addition, all 15 finalists in the Room for Living contest received $25 gift certificates from Treetime to help them better enjoy the holidays.