Donna Abell, a Westminster game-show fan who missed a million but won a $100,000 second prize in the Maryland Lottery's Millennium Mania, is still excited about the whole thing.
"It was very touching, it really was," she said yesterday. "It was almost more that I wanted to play the game than that I was paying attention to the money."
The 41-year-old doctor's receptionist has been playing the lottery almost every day, usually with her mother, with whom she'll share the prize. Her mother, husband and two sons, ages 17 and 20, were with her at the studio for the taping last week.
"Ever since childhood, I liked game shows, gambling, Atlantic City. I just like to play the games," Abell said.
The final drawing, broadcast on New Year's Eve, showed colored balls popping up to eliminate three out of the four finalists. Abell, whose color was purple, survived two eliminations to enter the final round against Vincent Mishkel of Baltimore, who won the $1 million.
"Donna's ball popped up, and she was eliminated -- but as we said, that may be too harsh a term when you've won $100,000," said J. Patrick Morton, a Maryland Lottery spokesman.
The game began as a basic scratch-off in October, but at $10 per ticket, he said. Players mailed their tickets to the lottery, and on Dec. 20 four names were drawn from almost 150,000 entries for the grand finale.
"There were so many that the entries overflowed all of our drawing machines, and we had to rent a cement mixer," said Morton.
"The first one [drawn] was Donna Abell, and from the first second, she was screaming and crying. She could barely breathe -- exactly the kind of contestant the lottery is looking for," Morton said.
"Part of the reason Donna was so excited, she said, is that just by picking up that phone meant an award of $25,000," he said. "She told us it was always her dream to be on a game show."
Upon learning that her name had been drawn, "I think I screamed and cried for like 20 minutes. I was just surprised and so excited," Abell said.
"You couldn't go wrong at that point," she said. "And they go out of their way to show the excitement as well."
In the final drawing, three one-minute segments aired on New Year's Eve and the fourth was just after midnight, he said. The first segment introduced the four finalists; the other segments eliminated three people, one by one.
Each finalist had a colored key and when the matching color ball popped up, they were out, Morton said. Eliminated first was Palmer Bowyer of Essex, who won $25,000, then Darlene Shockley of Snow Hill, who won $50,000.
Abell praised her fellow contestants, family, friends and co-workers, saying, "Everybody's been so nice about it."
"I think we'd like to build a home," she said. "We're in tight quarters right now."