Ellen and John Henry Breland buy a ticket to the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway every year, but never in their wildest dreams did they think they’d actually win.
“We figured we’d maybe win some furniture” in the annual nationwide raffle benefiting the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Ellen Breland said.
But on Sunday, a phone call caught Ellen at home, alone.
When she picked up the phone and Jordan Turri, an event marketing representative with St. Jude Children’s Hospital, told her they’d won the home, she couldn’t believe her ears.
“I was like, ‘I don’t have anyone to tell.’ I think I just went crazy,” she said.
Ellen said she dashed down the drive of her home on Flat Top Mountain to find her husband and give him the good news.
At first John Henry didn’t believe her.
“I thought they [were] pulling my leg,” he said.
But a short time later, the Brelands parked in front of their new home and stepped out of the car, awestruck. Ellen’s lifetime friend, Sherry Krupp, came along for the ride, armed with a digital camera.
“She called me up and asked if I wanted to go to Apison. I said, ‘What for?’ and she goes, ‘To see my new house!’” Krupp said.
The couple walked through the door, teary-eyed and looking overwhelmed, as they took in the huge space — a living room ceiling that vaults into the second story, a huge bathtub in the master bedroom, an outdoor fireplace for summer evenings.
“This is just wild,” Ellen said, as she and her husband toured the 3,000-square-foot residence in the Hawk’s Landing neighborhood.
The four-bedroom home is valued at $325,000. Gus Issa, owner of G.T. Issa Construction, handled the building.
“There are special features galore inside and out,” he said. “It’s a beautiful home. It’s really got all the bells and whistles.”
Issa said much of the materials, time and labor for the project were donated.
“We got a lot of great support,” he said.
The Brelands, who both work for Millwright Services Inc. in Morristown, Tenn., said they never bought the $100 tickets for the prizes.
“It’s not about what you get out of it; it’s what you give. It’s about those little kids,” she said. “We just do it to support the children.”
Despite how excited they were about their acquisition, the Brelands were unsure if they would keep it. The drive to work from their mountain home is already close to an hour. Moving to Apison would double that time.
John Henry said they might sell the place to fund a long-time dream.
“We’ve got some property with a very beautiful view,” he said. “That’s where she wants to build a home.”
According to WRBC-Channel 3, the 71,000 tickets sold raised $711,000. All proceeds are given to the hospital.
Contact staff writer Lindsay Burkholder at 423-757-6592 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.