Luck of these draws yields miracles

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY, Times Staff Writer
Published October 25, 2007

DUNEDIN- Some moments in life occur in such unlikely, indescribable ways we use words like lucky, coincidental or even miraculous to explain them.

Such a moment occurred at 5 p.m. Sunday at the 36th annual fall festival for Our Lady of Lourdes School, as people gathered under a tent for the raffle. Among them was Marianne Mullan, a festival volunteer.

First, church leaders gave away prize baskets made by students at the Catholic school.

Then came the raffle for cash prizes: a $5,000 grand prize and four $500 prizes.

"It's showtime," festival chairwoman Lori Mattox told Father Gary Dowsey as she walked him to the tent to name the winners.

She asked Dowsey, who has served as pastor since July, to say a prayer for someone who could really use the money right now. She had a person in mind: Mullan, 45, the single mother of 13-year-old Christopher, an eighth-grader at Our Lady of Lourdes.

Three months ago, Mullan was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then, she had missed every day of work as a nurse at Morton Plant Hospital.

Our Lady of Lourdes students pulled the raffle winners and handed the tickets to Mattox, who gave them to Dowsey. He read the winners' names aloud and gave the tickets to Mullan, who recorded the winners.

First came the $5,000 prize. Dowsey read Mullan's name.

He pulled another name for the $500 prize.

He read Mullan's again.

Then he read another person's name.

Then he read Mullan's name again.

Mullan won three of five drawings for $6,000.

"I didn't think it was real at first," Mullan said. "I thought it was a joke."

What are the chances? There are 3,500 parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes, Mattox said. Each family is given 25 tickets and asked to turn them in with a $1 donation for each ticket. Most families returned their tickets.

Now consider this: Mullan didn't submit any tickets to the raffle.

Someone else did it for her.

"They know it's been a rough time," said Mullan, who lives in Dunedin. "God takes care of us."

If anyone deserved to win, it's Mullan, said Dowsey.

"She always dealt with the cancer with great dignity and great hope," he said.

Mattox said an anonymous donor occasionally buys tickets for the raffle on behalf of someone or several people in need. This year, the anonymous donor asked Mattox for suggestions. She suggested Mullan.

Mattox won't say how many tickets the anonymous donor bought, nor would she disclose his or her identity.

To the anonymous donor, Mullan, who went back to work Monday, said she wants to say thank you. She'll use the money she won to pay bills.

Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at tel-khoury@sptimes.com or 727 445-4181.