Golconda, Ill., man wins drawing for St. Jude home

Monday, June 28, 2004

Mike Pelcha wasn't hoping to win a $250,000 home when he made a donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. He just wanted to give.

He won anyway.

Pelcha, of Golconda, Ill., is the winner of the 2004 St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. He and winners from various drawings were announced during a live broadcast by KFVS12 Sunday. The fund raiser totaled $606,400 after all the $100 tickets were tabulated.

Pelcha, who is in his 50s, did not see the donation as buying a ticket to win a home.

"I said to myself, 'You know, there's one chance in 6,000,' so I did it for a donation," he said.

He owns Pelcha Automotive, an auto parts store in Golconda, a town of about 700 on the Ohio River. A nephew lives in the house he owns, while he lives with his 80-year-old mother, Lilian Pelcha, in order to help her around the house.

Pelcha will visit the 2,100-square-foot home in Touchdown Estates in Cape Girardeau at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"I haven't ever seen it except for what I've seen on TV," Pelcha said, and he has no idea what he will do with the house until then.

More than 60 sponsors contributed to the dream home either with materials for construction or with items for prizes. All the coordinators needed to do was ask, said Martha Hamilton, chairwoman of the giveaway.

"It's very exciting and it's very gratifying to see our community get involved in such a dramatic way, in such a large way," she said.

"I think the community has taken initiative to really grasp onto the concept of St. Jude," said Alison Mustachia, a spokeswoman for St. Jude. With St. Jude dream homes being built in 33 different markets, a third annual dream home giveaway is definite for Cape Girardeau, she said.

It costs $1 million a day to keep the Memphis-based hospital running at no cost to patients' families. The hospital researches childhood diseases such as cancer, but its services extend far beyond its doorways, Mustachia said.

"It's a worldwide cause," Mustachia said. "It isn't just distinct to one area."

The hospital shares its research to other institutions that are seeking a cure for such diseases, she said.

'Doctors were so nice'

St. Jude helped 15-year-old Jackson resident Chris Palmer when he was diagnosed with Wilm's tumor, a cancer of the kidneys. From his initial diagnosis in October 1998 to his official remission in March, he said his experience at the hospital was excellent.

"The doctors were so nice, and the nurses," Palmer said, "and you could tell they were working day and night to come up with ways to make your feel comfortable and feel like you never left home."

It was especially comforting since he had to face the experience of going from a normal 9-year-old free to do anything to a child unable to do much at all.

St. Jude's immediate response was to surgically remove his Nerf-football-sized kidney and infected parts of his lungs and lymph nodes. He then underwent rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

His mother, Jeri Palmer, said that St. Jude alleviated much of the stress from having a child with cancer.

"It was the only time that I felt comfortable when Chris was getting treated, because I knew that they were going to take care of him," she said.

The Palmer family has frequently made donations to St. Jude, so buying a ticket for the dream home was another way to donate.

But the ticket gave back. Chris's father, Cliff Palmer, won a $2,500 gift certificate from Budget Blinds, although Chris Palmer's name was announced.

"They've already given us all we need," Jeri Palmer said. "Chris is healthy and alive."

jmetelski@semissourian.com

335-6611 extension 127

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