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Newly engaged couple win St. Jude's Dream Home giveaway

Jun. 22, 2008 @ 10:52 PM

A young couple on their way to a rainy day at Camden Park on Sunday found out something else was planned for them -- a day answering questions about their brand new St. Jude's Dream Home.

Ashley Dills, 22, of Ona, was with her fiance, John Daniels, 21, when she asked him to wait for the televised drawing of the Charleston Dream Home Giveaway before heading to Camden Park with their friends.

"I kind of laughed about waiting. I mean, I thought there was no way we would win," Daniels said.

Dills said she was shocked when she was announced as the winner.

"We got engaged a few months ago, and we were just going to move in with one of our parents for a while; now we have won a house," Dills said.

The house has an estimated value of $500,000 and is located in the Jamestown subdivision in Hurricane, W.Va.

Dills is a recent graduate of Marshall University and is a lab technician at the Biotechnology Science Center doing melanoma research. Daniels is a student at Marshall studying music education.

Dills said she bought the ticket with money she received for graduation.

"I thought that even if I didn't win the house, the money would go to a very good cause," Dills said.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is dedicated to the research and treatment of catastrophic disease in children, particularly cancer. It's a pediatric research center where a patient's family is not responsible for costs not covered by insurance, nor do they turn away those without insurance.

St. Jude sponsored the Dream Home Giveaway by selling tickets for the drawing for $100 each. The dream home giveaway sold 7,910 tickets for a total of $791,000, all of which is given to St. Jude.

Everything that was given away, including a new vehicle from Charleston/Logan Suzuki, was donated to the event. The home was built by Cartwright Development.

"I have never even won a stick of gum, let alone a house," Daniels said.

The question that is now facing the couple is whether or not they will keep the house. Gift taxes and property taxes on the house may add up to be too much for a college student and recent graduate.

"Right now, we are just doing what people tell us to do," Daniels said, "There are so many legal issues. We need to speak with a few legal advisers before we make any decisions."

Daniels and Dills have been dating for the past four years and said they have known they were going to be married for a long time.

"We know that it would still cost a lot to keep this place, aside from taxes and fees. Just keeping the house going would be difficult, and it is not very close to campus," Daniels said.

It is not uncommon for the winners of the Dream Home contest to sell their newly won home due to the gift tax. According to the tax code, large gifts are to be reported as income for that year.

They are allowed to sell the home, an option they are considering, and then using the profit gained from that sale to purchase something that is more affordable.

St. Jude Children Research Hospital has been serving the nation for over 40 years. According to St. Jude's Web site, they have raised the survival rate of childhood cancer from 20 percent to 70 percent. The daily operating cost of the hospital is approximately $1.3 million.

"The event raised almost $800,000 for St. Jude's, and even though it costs more than that to run the hospital for one day, more than anything, I am glad that we were able to be a part of all of this," Daniels said.

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