WEST SPRINGFIELD Every time Mark Sypek goes to the Stop & Shop on Riverdale Street, even if it's just to buy peanut butter or milk, he purchases a Triple Winner Game scratch-off ticket in honor of his daughter Laura, who died of pediatric cancer last year.
The Triple Winner Game is a scratch-off ticket promotion presented annually from April to June, where every dollar from each ticket sale in Massachusetts is donated to the Jimmy Fund in Boston, according to Robert Keane, spokesperson for Stop & Shop.
When Sypek, a West Springfield resident and sergeant in the West Springfield Police Department, went into Stop & Shop he was only there to buy hot dogs, and as always a Triple Winner scratch-off ticket. He never expected that he would leave the store with a $5,000 cash prize.
"I was watching Rachael Ray because my daughter used to watch her show all the time and she was talking about the best [base] ball parks with the best hot dogs and how to make them," Sypek said. "I wanted to try some of those hot dogs so I went to Stop & Shop with my family that day to get hot dogs and bought a few tickets."
Sypek went on to state that when he or his wife buy Triple Winner Game tickets they usually win food they donate to an open pantry or church. But when he completed the scratch-off ticket this time Sypek was unsure if he had won. Sypek stated that he had to ask his nephew, who works at the Stop & Shop Riverdale Street location, if he did in fact win $5,000.
"In order to win you have to match three items exactly," Matt Sypek, nephew of Mark Sypek, and assistant head of the Customer Service Department said. "He was surprised and wasn't sure if he was a winner and sure enough it was a winner. We've seen prizes for $25 gift cards but this is the largest cash prize we've ever seen."
According to Keane, 5.25 million Triple Winner Game tickets are printed each year and distributed to various Stop & Shop and Giant Food locations.
Three charities receive the donations based on location, Keane said. If a ticket is purchased in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island or New Hampshire every dollar is donated to the Jimmy Fund in Boston. Donations are given to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, for all tickets purchased in New York and New Jersey. For any tickets bought south of New York, donations are made to the Children's Cancer Foundation in Baltimore.
"It was important for us to give the customers the ability to donate to a local charity and that way they're helping families in their own area," Keane said. "We have raised a total of $40,000,000 to help eliminate childhood cancer."
Keane also stated that this is one of the biggest fundraisers in the country for pediatric cancer.
"Stop & Shop and vendor partners donate much of the products you can win," Keane said. "Triple Winner wouldn't be the success it is without our customers. It's our way of saying thank you to the customers for their help."
Not only do customers buy the Triple Winner Game tickets but even employees like Matt Sypek, buy the tickets purely for the cause that they represent.
"Given the circumstances of what happened to my cousin I buy them just for the cause when I go on break," Matt Sypek said. "Like my uncle, I'm not looking to win a prize. Hopefully him winning will help a lot of other people in the area come out to buy tickets."
Since winning, Sypek stated that he put most of the prize money in the bank but did buy his son a new video game system and bought himself a new set of golf clubs.
But for Sypek, his participation in the Triple Winner Game is far from over, even after winning one of the largest cash prizes.
"Anytime we can support any type of pediatric cancer [foundation], whether it's kids out there selling stuff we give as much as we can," Sypek said. "Anything to find a cure."
Sypek will also be helping to raise funds for pediatric cancer on Oct. 13, at the "Soupy for Loopy" Benefit in honor of his daughter. This event will be held at B'Shara's Restaurant on Riverdale Street in West Springfield. The public is invited to make a donation and eat a bowl of Laura's favorite tomato soup.
Laura Sypek lost her battle with Neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer on June 12, 2006.