A Cape Breton woman home from working in Alberta has won a $2.9-million jackpot in the Chase the Ace fundraiser in Sydney, N.S.  

Chase the Ace winner pledges $25K for Fort McMurray1:23

Kathy McPherson, 62, of Sydney, works as a labourer, most recently for a shutdown job in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. 

"They asked me if I'd go back in August, but I don't think so," she said, standing next to her husband, Ron, who works as a scaffolder. 

McPherson says her working days are over. 

Kathy

Kathy McPherson, a labourer, hugs her husband Ron, a scaffolder, after winning $2.9 million. (Chase the Ace)

'Luck of the draw'

She drew the lucky ace of spades exactly one year after the Sydney contest began, from five remaining cards in the deck.

"I'm in shock. I've never won anything in my life," she said. "I guess it was just luck of the draw, that's all I can tell you."

McPherson has two children, a son in Newfoundland and daughter in Halifax, as well as grandchildren.

"I had to look at it again — I didn't really believe that it was the ace. I thought it was a black, numbered card," she said.

Kathy

McPherson says she's going to stop working now that she's won Chase the Ace. (Chase the Ace)

Fort McMurray top of mind

McPherson says she has lived in Fort McMurray, Alta., and has many friends there, some of whom have lost their homes in the recent wildfire.

"I can't imagine the devastation," she said. 

She says she'll be donating to the relief fund, and finishing renovations on her home. 

The contest's two sponsors, Ashby Legion Branch 138 and the Horizon Achievement Centre, are donating $25,000 of the draw's funds to the relief effort in Fort McMurray.

Chase the Ace

Sydney's Chase the Ace donated to the Fort McMurray relief fund. (Chase the Ace)

Union happy for member's win

McPherson's fellow Local 92 union members sent warm wishes to her via their Facebook group. 

"Best kind. Such a hard worker," posted Anna MacLeod. "Congrats to Kathy."

"She is awesome," wrote Belinda King. "And so is her husband Ron!!! Incredible people they deserve this!!!!!"

Heavy ticket sales

Tickets sold Saturday for the 50/50 draw amounted to $1.39 million, organizers announced that evening, adding to the total collected over the past 51 weeks. 

tickets

Volunteers stir the thousands of tickets with a rake. (Chase the Ace)

There were so many tickets in the bin that a volunteer had to stir them with a rake.

Sales have been heavy all day at participating venues, with people lining up with hopes of an easier life for their family and friends. 

While waiting for the draw, Ryan Peach said if he wins the jackpot, he won't be going to work for a while.

Ryan Peach

Ryan Peach was hoping to win Saturday afternoon. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Roy Boutilier said he recently lost his job as a construction worker in the Fort McMurray area. He lives in the small community of Reserve Mines, N.S., northeast of Sydney.

Roy Boutilier

Roy Boutilier says he's hoping to win. (George Mortimer/CBC)

And Bailey Ferguson said any winning would help with her baby on the way and to pay off her student loans.

Bailey Ferguson

Bailey Ferguson was hoping for help to pay her expenses for her soon-to-be-born baby. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Even if the ace had not been drawn, McPherson would have gone home with at least $417,000, organizers say. That would have left the next jackpot at a starting $3.2 million, before that day's ticket sales.

Organizers say it's too soon to say whether the Ashby Legion will hold another Chase the Ace.

police

A police officer draws the winning ticket for security reasons. (Chase the Ace)

With files from George Mortimer