By Jesse Roman
SALEM — Imagine receiving a voice mail from nearly 100 people screaming in unison, "You're going to the Super Bowl!"
That happened Wednesday night to Lisa Markarian as she was on her way home from a visit to the local CVS.
"I wasn't really sure it was real, but I was shaking all the way home," said Markarian, a Salem resident who was the lucky winner of the Metro North YMCA Super Bowl Raffle. "It was the longest trip home of my life. ... I still can't believe it."
Markarian, her sister, and the other raffle winner, John Mello of Lynn and his companion, are boarding a chartered plane bound for Indianapolis this morning at 9.
For winning the YMCA raffle, Mello and Markarian each get round-trip airfare for two, a three-night stay at a hotel in Indianapolis, transportation to the airport and the game, and two tickets to watch the New England Patriots play the New York Giants in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
The package is valued at $8,000, said Bruce Macdonald, president and CEO of Metro North YMCA, which includes the YMCA facilities in Peabody, Saugus, Melrose and Lynn.
The Y took a gamble this year, deciding for the first time to buy two of the packages for $16,000, hoping it would pay off with more fundraising profit. Tickets to the raffle cost $100, and the number of tickets sold for each raffle was capped at 300.
"We kind of took a leap of faith," Macdonald said. "Fortunately the last couple days, ticket sales really picked up. ... This is more than we expected, so this is great."
In the end, 525 tickets were sold, and the YMCA made a profit of about $34,000 — approximately $10,000 more than they had made in the four past Super Bowl raffles. The money will be used to subsidize the cost of YMCA membership for low-income children and families at each of the four Y locations.
A crowd of about 75 people gathered Wednesday evening at the Torigian Family YMCA in Peabody, all hoping they had the winning ticket. As it turned out, neither Markarian nor Mello were present when Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt drew their winning tickets. Brilliantly, the YMCA staff had a cellphone hooked up to a speaker system, so the crowd could hear the call and help deliver the exciting news. Both calls went to voice mail, and the crowd boisterously left a message.
When Markarian and her sister Laura finally arrived at the YMCA to pick up the prize, "they were both literally in a state of shock," said Gregory Griffin, director of operations at the Torigian Family YMCA. "Her sister was speechless."
It's a bit serendipitous that Markarian is headed back to the Super Bowl to see the Pats face the Giants. She was in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 3, 2008, for Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants handed the Patriots a devastating loss that ruined their perfect 2007 season. A huge Patriots fan, Markarian, like everyone else in New England, is eager for a little payback.
"I hope things are different this time," she said.