Chase the Ace drew thousands each Wednesday night over the summer in St. John's, Newfoundland, as people hoped to be the winner of the growing jackpot.
Photo Credit: CBC / Ted Dillon

Chase the Ace and the winners in St. John’s, Newfoundland

Chase the Ace is a fundraising endeavour that’s grown in popularity in Canada.

Now, following the extraordinary outcome for a tiny church in Newfoundland, more organisations may soon be making it even more popular.

St. Kevin’s Catholic Church took in $5.7 million (Cdn), according to the church bulletin this past Sunday.

After expenses, the parish is $5,759,174.00 ahead.

It’s a variation on a 50-50 draw, whereby the money collected is split, half to the winner, and half to the sponsoring organisation.

In St. John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador, the lottery went on for 45 weeks, according to Carol O’Brien.

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She is the chair of the parish of St. Kevin’s Finance Committee, and one of the original six organisers of the fundraising campaign.

St. Kevin’s leaky steeple will be fixed now, as a result of the massive response to the church’s fundraising campaign. © CBC/Andrew Sampson

The jackpot continued accumulating over those weeks as more and more participants bought the lottery tickets.

The money from the ticket sales was divided into three parts: St. Kevin’s kept half. the winner of the lottery took 20 per cent, and 30 per cent went into a jackpot.

The lottery winner also got the opportunity to draw a card from a deck of playing cards, and the person who drew the ace of spades, won the accumulated jackpot.

At St. Kevin’s it got to be a major draw, as week after week no one had drawn the ace, and the deck gets reduced by the cards taken each week.

It seemed like the whole province was ‘chasing the ace’.

“They saw the sense of camaraderie and community spirit”

When asked if other churches are now approaching her and the committee for their expertise, she says they probably know they all need a rest.

“But I would do it in a heartbeat, I enjoyed it thoroughly, I enjoyed the people, the friendships, just the community spirit, it was fabulous, and you know a lot of my volunteers were the same, they say, oh they miss it so much.”

The community would come together every Wednesday night for the jackpot draw.

Carol O’Brien says between the church, the hall, the rectory and the cemetery, the money will be well spent on upkeep, maintenance and paying for the heat and snow clearing over the winters to come.

Churchgoers attending Sunday morning mass at St. Kevin’s Parish in Goulds, St. John’s, Newfoundland. © CBC/Andrew Sampson

Like many churches across Canada, the congregation is shrinking and budgets are hard to meet.

Newfoundland was one of the first places rocked by the sexual abuse allegations at a former Christian Brothers orphanage, in the 1990’s.

O’Brien says the loss of the denominational education system was another blow, resulting in fewer families attending the weekly masses.

In the new year, O’Brien is planning to spend some of the money on weekly social gatherings, now that people are familiar with the parish hall.

She says that the growing crowds that were drawn by the lottery also “saw the sense of camaraderie and community spirit”

Meanwhile, they have fixed the church steps and loose railings. Next will be the steeple which has been leaking for several years

And it will be a good Christmas for the many people in the parish and beyond that depend on the food bank; it will also be renovated.

Churchgoers attend Sunday morning mass at St. Kevin’s Parish in Goulds. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

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