BBHMS student wins Vax-a-Million lottery

Daum receives full ride to any Ohio college or university

by Melissa Martin

If there’s one thing Jennifer and Jeremy Daum have learned over the past few weeks, it’s that timing truly can be everything.

Since the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine was deemed safe for children ages 12 and up, the Brecksville couple said they decided as a family that their 13-year-old daughter, Sydney, would get vaccinated this summer before she returned to Brecksville-Broadview Heights Middle School this fall.

Once Gov. Mike DeWine announced the Vax-a-Million outreach campaign this past spring, however, the Daums decided to push those plans forward to mid-May, knowing that, win or lose, sooner was ultimately better than later as far as the vaccine goes.

That decision ended up paying off in a big way June 24, when Jennifer received a call on her cell phone from the governor himself proclaiming Sydney the fifth and final winner of the state’s Vax-A-Million full-ride scholarship.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Jennifer said during a June 25 press conference, noting that Jeremy refused to believe that Sydney was a winner until he saw DeWine’s face on his phone. “To tell you the truth, by then we kind of forgot about [the lottery] but it was definitely total excitement.”

Jennifer said she was at a baseball game with her 11-year-old son when she received DeWine’s call saying that Sydney had won and that the news would be shared publicly just 10 minutes later. She then provided DeWine with her husband’s phone number so the governor could share the good with Sydney himself via FaceTime.

Later that evening, the DeWine and his wife, Fran, stopped by the Daum’s home to congratulate the family in person and take photographs, Jennifer said.

“It was all so exciting,” she said.

During a June 25 press conference, Jennifer shared that she battled the COVID-19 virus shortly after Christmas but was fortunate in that she only “had a mild case.”

Nevertheless, she didn’t want the rest of her family to chance getting seriously ill if the vaccine was available and could prevent it.

“We know there’s a lot of people out there who weren’t as lucky,” she said.

Ohio Vax-a Million was a five-week, public outreach campaign that consisted of a series of statewide drawings aimed at increasing awareness of the availability and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and to provide incentives for Ohioans to get vaccinated.

While adults had the opportunity to win one of five $1 million prizes, youths between the ages of 12 and 17, who received at least their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination prior to the date of the weekly drawings, had the opportunity to win one of five four-year, full-ride scholarships to any of Ohio’s state colleges or universities.

By the end of the Vax-a-Million campaign in June, 154,889 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 received at least one dose of the vaccine and had signed up for a chance to win one of the scholarships. That was an increase of 4,702 scholarship entries from the previous week.

Along with Sydney, two other students from Northeast Ohio – Zoie Vincent of Mayfield Village and Sarah Afaneh of Sheffield Village – each won one of the five college scholarships.

“The Vax-a-Million promotion was a resounding success for Ohio, with major increases in vaccinations in the first two weeks of the promotion,” DeWine said, noting that more than 3.4 million adults were registered to win the $1 million lottery by the final week of the campaign. “The even better news is we have more Ohioans protected from COVID through the power of the vaccine. I continue to urge Ohioans to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones from this deadly virus.”

According to the state lottery commission, a winner and up to 100 alternates for each of the weekly drawings were chosen using a random number generator. Those names were then turned over to the Ohio Department of Health to verify the winners’ vaccination status. If the first name on the list did not meet the required standards, the next name on the list was evaluated until a winner was verified. All Ohio residents who had at least one Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson shot were eligible to win.

Sydney and her parents attended DeWine’s weekly press conference virtually from BBHMS, where Sydney had been attending a mosaics camp at the time, to talk about her win and plans for the future.

Considering she’s just a rising eighth-grader at the middle school, Sydney told DeWine she hasn’t put much planning into where she intends to go to college or what she wants to study.

Her dad, however, said he’s got a good idea as to where she’ll end up – “somewhere in Ohio, that’s for sure!”

“We are very fortunate in that one is now taken care of and we only have one more to go,” he joked, noting that he and Jennifer also have an 11-year-old son, Alex.

The scholarship money to which Sydney is entitled will be placed in a 529 college savings account that will cover the cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and books at Ohio’s most expensive public university, DeWine said.

Currently Ohio’s most costly public college or university is Miami University in Oxford, which costs approximately $34,000 a year based on 2021-2022 estimates provided by the university.

Joelle Magyar, superintendent of the BBHCSD, said she’s delighted one of the school district’s own was able to benefit from the lottery. Even better, she said, is the fact that the student chosen was Sydney Daum.

“She’s a fabulous student,” Magyar said, noting that Sydney not only participates in synchronized swimming, but she’s also a member of the middle school orchestra.

Magyar said Sydney’s language arts teacher was thrilled, as Sydney is known to have read more than 50 books this past school year.

“What a great thing to happen to a student, she is so committed to her academics and then to have this happen to her is just the icing on the cake,” Magyar said. ∞