CENTREVILLE — It was quite a scene Sunday evening, July 21, at the Centreville American Legion Jeff Davis Post 18 leading up to the 53rd drawing for the American Legion Riders sponsored Queen of Hearts game. The upstairs assembly hall at the Legion was at capacity; also there were many people outside under a big tent with tables and chairs.
For the previous 52 drawings, there was no winner, so the prize money continued to grow each week. Only two cards remained in the game, as a full deck of cards with jokers has 54 cards. Chances were high someone would be a winner Sunday.
Legion Riders leader Ken Huddleston invited Kevin Morgan to come forward to draw the ticket number from the barrel that had been turned repeatedly. Morgan closed his eyes, turning his head away from the barrel of tickets, and pulled one out. He presented it to Huddleston. At first, Huddleston and Morgan had difficulty finding the name of the person who bought the ticket, but then: “Is Michael Gates in the audience?” The response was “Yes!”
Gates, seated in the middle of the hall, rose from his seat and cautiously came forward — no smile on his face.
Huddleston asked Gates, “What number on the board of cards did you select?”
Gates replied, “Number 38.” There were people who groaned as if they thought Gates had picked the wrong number. Someone in the audience called out, “Is he 21? Is he 21?”
Huddleston checked the card on the board, turned on his microphone and said, “We have a winner!”
Gates jumped into the air, raising both his arms and clinching his fists in triumph, a huge smile on his face as he turned toward the audience. There was burst of applause.
Some people immediately came forward to congratulate Gates.
Gates, 24, is from Centreville. He is a graduate of Queen Anne’s County High School, class of 2013. He is an Eagle Scout, which he earned in 2012, as a member of the former Troop 148 in Queenstown. For the past several years, he has been a student at Towson University majoring in history, with the hope of someday becoming a teacher. This is his last week of part-time employment at Littman Jewelers in Towson, where he has worked the past year.
Next month, Gates has committed to going to basic training, joining the U.S. Air Force. He also plans to get married soon.
Among his immediate needs, he plans to use some of his winnings to have ACL surgery performed on his 4-year-old adopted dog, Damien, who was injured recently.
Other plans for his winnings include paying off some of his college debt and possibly investing, after paying taxes on the winnings, in a Roth IRA for his future.
The Queen of Hearts game has been sponsored by the American Legion Riders at Post 18 to help raise funds for donations to support disabled veterans. The total pot before the drawing was $74,975, to be divided between the legion and the winner.
Huddleston announced prior to the drawing that another $12,000 in tickets had been sold, further raising the expected amount to be won.
From the game, the Legion Riders received $30,000 to donate, much of which will go to Patriot Point in Cambridge, to support disabled veterans with their families to enjoy fishing and outdoor activities while they recover and recuperate from injuries suffered while serving the nation.
Several people in the audience were heard making remarks prior to the drawing, saying, “This is quite an event! Can you remember anything positive that has brought the community of Centreville together in excitement recently, like this?”