Suggestion for next Vail home winner: Take the cash!

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Giving away a home in Vail has proven to be harder than Steve Michonski expected.

Michonski is a board member for The Vail Academy, as well as director of the home raffle, which is intended to raise funds for the school. But while a press release touts the winners of last year's contest -- the Hunnicutt family, from Kentucky -- Michonski notes that they wound up with a cash prize rather than a prime piece of Vail real estate. Indeed, the same home from last year -- a four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath beauty estimated to be worth $1.2 million -- is being dangled before contestants in 2010.

"I went in all optimistic last year," Michonski says. "I thought, 'Who wouldn't want a house in Vail? We're going to sell this thing out.' But I learned a lot."

According to the contest rules, the house would only have been awarded last year if a certain ticket-sales threshold was met -- and it wasn't. That meant Karen Hunnicutt, the family member who entered the raffle, wound up with $130,000 -- still a great score. However, she used the money to improve her residence in Kentucky instead of moving to Vail, where that amount of coin would be almost enough to purchase a storage shed.

Nevertheless, the Academy was pleased with the number of tickets sold last year, and because the contest infrastructure had been built, complete with a database of previous ticket-buyers, and the home was still available, Michonski and company decided to try again this year, albeit with some tweaks -- including a grand-prize alternative of $850,000 in folding green.

"We thought we'd have so many people who'd be excited to win the house and would figure out what they could do with it -- sell it, rent it," he says. "But we got all kinds of people wanting to know what the property taxes were or how much it cost for snow removal. So the cash prize solves that problem. Now you're appealing to people who just want a chance to win while they're helping out a nonprofit, but who may not want the house. A large number of our ticket buyers are from Denver and the front range, and those folks might or might not consider keeping the house. But we also have people from Atlanta, Mississippi, Southern California, even Mexico, and they may want to take the cash."

Granted, the winner will only grab the 850 grand (or the house) if more than 40,000 tickets are sold. The prize money starts at $10,000 if sales fail to top 2,500, moving progressively higher from there. Tickets will be sold over the next six months. Read the contest rules for all the details.

As for the home, it's worth 15 percent less this year than last year: Thanks, lousy economy. But Michonski, who says tickets are moving much more quickly than they did last year, hopes someone winds up with it anyhow.

"We'd really love to give away the home, because that's more exciting," he says. "A quarter-million or $150,000 is pretty good, but we'd rather give away the home."

Here's the press release about the contest:

Vail Home Raffle Awards Grand Prize to Deserving Family in Kentucky

Vail Home Raffle Raises Money for School and Benefits US Military Family

VAIL, Colo., March 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A small non-profit in a big-name resort turned international recognition into successful fundraising with the 2009 Vail Home Raffle. The Vail Academy offered a million-dollar vacation home as the top prize in a raffle dedicated to raising money for a small Kindergarten-8th grade school tucked in the Rocky Mountains.

Kentucky native Karen Hunnicutt was ecstatic when she won the grand prize drawing on New Year's Eve (2009). "I was stunned when you called! My husband is career military, and we have seven children and three grandchildren, so we have never had any 'extra' money. My husband has been increasingly concerned because he faces going to Afghanistan (he's already been to Iraq), and was worried about leaving me here with all the kids and inefficient heat. With the funds from the grand prize from The Vail Academy, we will be able to pay off our last credit card and install a geothermal system in our home! The Vail Academy family has blessed us by working so hard for this raffle. God used you to bless our family. Thank you for all your hard work!" Karen discovered the fundraiser on www.winavailhome.com after seeing a news story about home raffles.

"We decided to offer a unique, exciting opportunity with mass appeal to raise money for the school. Vail is recognized around the world as a premier vacation destination. The chance to win a Vail vacation home is of interest to almost everyone," says Steve Michonski, a Vail real estate broker and organizer of the home raffle.

The Vail Academy is now launching their 2010 Vail Home Raffle. Tickets are $50, and the grand prize winner can win the million-dollar ski home or $850,000 in cash. Six Early Bird Drawings make it advantageous to enter the raffle as soon as possible, and a $5,000 Refer-A-Friend Drawing and $5,000 Multi-Ticket drawing offer more chances to win. Tickets can be ordered at www.winavailhome.com or by calling 866-638-9488.

The Vail Academy is a private school located in Avon, Colorado between Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts. The school, which opened in 1995, is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and by the North Central Association. 90-110 students enroll annually in kindergarten through 8th grade. For more information about the school and the raffle, visit www.winavailhome.com.

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