Survey-taker pockets big prize, plans to donate portion of winnings
Although Emily Ciaramellano has never considered herself an avid survey-taker, about a year ago the Royal Oak resident filled out an Our Town America questionnaire that offered a hefty prize to a random-drawing winner.
“After my girlfriend and I moved into an apartment in Royal Oak last year, we received a packet of coupons from Our Town America, welcoming us to the community,” Ciaramellano recounted. “There was a survey that came with the coupons saying, basically, if you liked the coupons, fill out this survey and you could win a huge prize.
“For some reason, I filled it out, even though I never fill those things out.”
Nine months later, Ciaramellano was notified that she was the winner of a $3,000 prize after her name was randomly drawn out of an ocean of millions of names.
“These surveys go out to millions of people across the country and there’s only one winner each year,” said Our Town America representative Becky Neal. “So the odds of Emily winning were literally millions-to-one. I believe she’s only the second winner we’ve had from Michigan.”
When asked if she was going to take a trip to Disney World with her winnings, Ciaramellano chuckled and revealed a trip like that couldn’t be further from her mind.
“My girlfriend and I recently bought a cat, so we’re going to make a nice donation to a cat shelter,” she revealed. “I am a firm believer in good karma, so I feel like I want to give back a little bit. I’ll probably save the rest so I can eventually buy a house.”
Ciaramellano, a 22-year-old first-time renter, said she’d wholeheartedly encourage others to take random surveys like she did on a whim.
“When I filled out the (Our Town America) survey,I figured, hey, it will take me 30 seconds and I have nothing to lose,” she said. “If I can win something like this, anyone can.”
Since 1972, Our Town America has welcomed new movers by inviting them to sample neighborhood businesses. Over 5 million new movers received the company’s coupons-stuffed welcome package last year.
“Our welcome packets are a big help to people moving into new communities because they’re looking for new businesses that they lost when they moved,” Neal said. “It helps them figure out where to get groceries, who their next dentist will be. It also helps the businesses because it creates new customers.”
Ciaramellano accepted her check June 7 at TLC Car Care in Royal Oak, where she used one of her coupons on a free oil change.
“This is the first time I’ve had a home of my own,” Ciaramellano said, “so this money will go a long way. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Nor could the cat shelter that will benefit from Ciaramellano’s pay-it-forward mentality.