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Dream still alive for CHEO Foundation despite construction delays, global pandemic

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COVID-19 has once again disrupted the launch of the CHEO Dream of a Lifetime lottery.

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Ticket sales for the popular hospital fundraiser began Monday without the usual splash of a press conference and the unveiling of the lottery’s key draw, the grand prize Minto dream home.

Like last year, the designer-decorated, fully furnished home was not ready in time.

“Welcome to construction this year,” says Brent Strachan, president of Minto Communities Ottawa, which has been building the dream homes for more than 20 years. “This year’s just been a whole other level as far as availability of materials.”

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc with construction schedules in general since the early days of the pandemic last year, making it difficult to deliver something like the dream home on time. As recently as two weeks ago, floors in this year’s home were still being installed, tiling had not been finished and the kitchen was nowhere to be seen.

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By mid-August in a normal year, designer Tanya Collins, who has overseen the interiors of the home since 2018, would be putting the finishing touches on the decor. Instead, she was scrambling to re-order pieces, in some cases for the third time.

“I’m having to reselect a lot of key items of furniture. This has now been the third time; it’s been extremely stressful,” she says.

But Dan Champagne, vice-president of development and corporate relations for the CHEO Foundation, which operates the lottery, is rolling with the punches.

“Boy oh boy, if we could arrange to have some locusts one year because between elections and floods (in 2017 and 2019) and pandemics, holy geez, it keeps a lottery organizer awake at night,” he jokes.

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The delayed unveiling of the dream home last year failed to dampen interest in the lottery, which sold a record 115,000 tickets in record time, selling out three weeks before the lottery ended. That’s prompting Champagne to offer 200,000 tickets this year.

“I think it’s wonderful when we sell out early, I really do, but it’s three weeks of fundraising that we didn’t do that we could have bought something else for the hospital, and the demand is still there,” he says. “This year we’re going to allow the lottery to show us what its true potential is.”

And while it will be some time before the dream home is ready to be seen — Champagne is guessing early to mid-October at this point — “I’m not even kicking up any kind of a fuss about the completion of the home because it’s not going to change anything,” he says. “It is what it is.”

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This year’s home is a bungalow loft with three bedrooms (the master is on the main floor) and 4,603 square feet of finished space. It’s being built on an oversized lot at Minto’s Mahogany development in Manotick, overlooking a pond and within site of last year’s dream home.

As a bungalow, “it resonates with a lot of people,” says Minto product development manager Karen van der Velden, who designed the home. “You can be on one floor and have everything you need that accommodates your needs on that main floor.”

The home is Net Zero, meaning it has the ability to produce as much energy as it uses over the course of a year, and will be fully electric, including a charging station in the three-car garage.

It’s not clear yet whether the home will be open to the public once it is ready. Last year’s home could be seen only by virtual tour, which will also be an option this year.

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“We will at the 11th hour default to advice from our local health services,” Champagne says. Along with an interactive 3D walk-through tour, there will be a narrated video tour as well, he says.

“So, if you don’t want to literally walk yourself through … you just want to be informed, you can hit play and sit back.”

The grand prize package, which includes the home, along with a hybrid Ford Explorer, $100,000 in cash, house cleaning and groceries for a year and moving and legal services, is valued at $3.1 million.

Other prizes include a “car, camping or cash” prize worth $100,000, an early bird prize of $250,000 in cash, several cars, trips across Canada, a room makeover by Collins and thousands of gift cards. In all, there are more than 7,500 prizes totalling $4.7 million.

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As well, the 50/50 draw returns, this time with a guaranteed payout of at least $1 million. “It makes my body tingle in strange places when I say it out loud. I hope it’s the right thing to do,” Champagne says. But when asked about the risk of guaranteeing the payout he adds, “We’re fine. We’ve exceeded it each of the last three years… The jackpot would get there; we’re just giving people more confidence in it.”

Tickets are $100 each or three for $250. Tickets for the 50/50 draw are $10 each, 5 for $25 or 15 for $50. There are also packages available combining lottery and 50/50 tickets. Tickets can be purchased via the lottery website, dreamofalifetime.ca, by phone at 613-722-5437 or 1-877-562-5437, or via mail (details on the website). Tickets cannot be purchased this year at the CHEO gift shop or the CHEO Foundation.

The lottery runs until Dec. 17.

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