Iqaluit co-workers win more than $200K in high school's Chase the Ace fundraiser

Four office co-workers in Iqaluit are sharing six-figure jackpot after winning one of the largest Chase the Ace fundraisers in Nunavut on Thursday.

Inuksuk High School organized draw to raise money for 2 international trips

John Nguyen holds up the winning ace of spades card at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit on Thursday. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Four office co-workers in Iqaluit are sharing a six-figure jackpot after winning one of the largest Chase the Ace fundraisers in Nunavut on Thursday.

John Nguyen, Karri Gillis, Olu Esho and Joseph Eze drew the very last card in the deck — the ace of spades — winning a grand total of $208,042.50 at Inuksuk High School over the lunch hour.

"My heart is still racing. I still don't believe it," said Esho.

"My right leg was shaking for like 10 minutes with excitement," said Nguyen, who picked up the winning card on behalf of his colleagues. "Now it's calmed down a little bit."

Excitement had been building up in Iqaluit leading up to the draw, given the ace of spades was the last card.

The winning team, who dubbed themselves the "SharePoint working group," had purchased 40 tickets just before the cut-off time on Wednesday.

"This was like extremely last-minute," said Nguyen.

"I think yesterday around [7] p.m. was the last time to actually buy tickets and we just, like, might as well add to the pot, and got extremely lucky."

Each person will receive roughly $50,000. Nguyen and Esho said they haven't decided what they'll do with the money.

"I'm going to sleep over it for a few days," Esho said.

"I'm going to sleep on it," Nguyen said, laughing. "It's probably enough to make a mattress."

Money for 2 trips

Inuksuk High School students and staff organized the Chase the Ace to raise money for two international trips. One group is going to Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands, and another group will travel to Europe to play soccer.

"It's really a big thing," said Kiersten Williams, a Grade 11 student who had been involved in Chase the Ace fundraising since she was in Grade 9.

"I have a lot of people coming to me, saying, 'Oh when I was in high school, like, I didn't get to do that kind of stuff. It's amazing,' and it's just really cool to see everyone come together to help students be able to have this experience."

Tina Morrissey, a teacher who helped organize the fundraiser, said school staff did not expect this Chase the Ace to run this long.

"Eighteen weeks ago, we were wondering if we should start another one up; we weren't sure if we had enough time to run it and how far it would go," she said.

"When we knew the last day would be the 27th of June — it's the day before we're finished as teachers, we're finished school for the summer — we were like, 'There's no way it's going to go that long, so OK, let's do it.' And here we are … with one card left, and it's the ace of spades."

Organizers credited students, staff, parents, local businesses and community members — not just in Iqaluit, but across Nunavut — with making the fundraiser a success.

"I think it's a good cause," said Nguyen, who said his office supports Chase the Ace fundraisers around town. "If you have the means to buy it, then I think it's good."

Written by Donna Lee, with files from Travis Burke and Michelle Pucci