David Wilson of Laguna Beach took home the top $10,000 prize in the early bird drawing of the 12th annual Laguna Beach Million Dollar Home Raffle, which was held Sept. 1.
“That makes it about even,” estimated Wilson, who figures he’s purchased $1,000 worth of raffle tickets in each of the last 10 years.
Wilson said he plans to donate his winnings to Schoolpower, the Laguna Beach organization that supports public schools. He and his wife Holly, longtime Schoolpower supporters, are the parents of two Laguna Beach High School students.
“Education is important for our country and our future,” said Wilson, who owns 20 car dealerships in three states and Mexico, including nine in Orange County. “They are our future employees and customers; we need smart people.”
Wilson said he must have been hurried when he entered this year’s raffle, as he typically signs his children’s names to raffle tickets because of an experience he described as “bad luck” 40 years ago.
As a general manager of a Lincoln Mercury dealer in Arizona, he had sold a new $10,000 Lincoln to a church for its own raffle. Church leaders talked him into buying 10, $100 tickets. “That was a lot of money then,” said Wilson. “And so was a $10,000 car.” Based on the Consumer Price Index, his raffle investment would be worth $4,200 today.
When Wilson ended up with the church’s winning ticket, church leaders expected him to give the keys back. He refused and still grimaces at the memory of being put on the spot.
Fortunately, that’s not the case this time.
As part of its annual fundraising efforts, the Ocean Institute in Dana Point turned to a raffle that awards a grand prize of a Laguna Beach home or $1 million cash, which this year will be awarded Nov. 5.
The organization established in 1977 educates hundreds of visitors annually through marine science and maritime history programs. The raffle represents 12 percent of the annual budget, which was $6.6 million in 2014, according to the latest available tax filing.
In the past 11 years, the grand prize has been awarded 10 of 11 times, said Courtney Zuni, the raffle coordinator. Only the first year’s winner took the home, while the others opted for cash, she said. Last year, the raffle fell short of its 17,000- ticket ceiling and awarded the top winner half the net proceeds, or $600,000 cash, Zuni said.
This year, raffle promoters aim to raise $3 million by selling 20,000 $150 tickets, she said. The final deadline to buy tickets is Oct. 20; those who buy tickets early or multiple tickets will have additional chances to win.
“The home raffle has produced thousands of happy winners, and has raised crucial funding that benefits the 115,000 school children whom the Ocean Institute serves every year,” raffle director Doug Abramson said in a statement.
The grand prize is a two-bedroom condo near downtown in Laguna Beach, said Zuni. Raffle organizers secure a contract with a seller willing to postpone a transaction until a raffle winner determines which prize they will take home, she said.