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Grand Blanc vaccine 'advocate' wins $1 million in MI Shot to Win sweepstakes


Lansing — LaTonda Anderson, a Grand Blanc resident, has won $1 million in Michigan's COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration announced Wednesday.

Anderson, 51, said she was in a "state of shock" after the revelation of her prize, the largest to be handed out yet as part of the MI Shot to Win giveaway. The initiative, which launched on July 1, is meant to entice more Michigan residents to get vaccinated.

The $1 million winner got vaccinated in late March in Flint to protect her family, she said, describing herself as a "huge advocate" for the vaccine.

“It is the ultimate act of unselfishness," Anderson said of getting vaccinated.

She said she had gotten vaccinated to help safeguard her parents who are in theirs 70s.

"We wanted to make sure that we did whatever we could to protect them, to protect friends and to even protect people that we don’t know," Anderson said. "It’s just so important to get the vaccine to help stop the spread. And that was our main goal."

Anderson is a woman of faith who plans to donate a portion of winnings, she said. She also will use the money to help pay the tuition of her daughter, who is in dental school.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and actor Tim Meadows, a Highland Park native who was a cast member on "Saturday Night Live," took part in the event at 10:30 a.m., which revealed the second round of individuals to claim prizes in the sweepstakes.

More: First four winners of $50,000 vaccine prizes named; most hail from Detroit area

The $5 million initiative is offering college scholarships and cash awards to Michigan residents who have gotten their COVID-19 vaccine. Whitmer has said the program will save and change lives.

The MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes features drawings awarding from $50,000 to $2 million. Residents who are between the ages of 12 and 17 can win one of nine $55,000 college scholarships. The $2 million drawing will take place in early August, as will the drawings for the scholarships.

The goal of the program is to encourage more people to get their vaccinations. As of Monday, 63% of Michigan residents age 16 and older have received at least their first dose.

Michigan reported its first cases of COVID-19 on March 10, 2020. The state has been battling the virus since then. While infection rates have declined significantly in recent months as vaccination numbers have increased, there are concerns that variants could cause case numbers to jump again in the near future. Such increases, linked to the Delta variant, have already been reported in other states.

"If you haven't gotten your shot yet, this virus is still a really, really real threat to you. Right now, the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 is present in the U.S. and in the state of Michigan," Gilchrist said Wednesday. "If you have your shots, know that those vaccines have proven to be effective, thus far, against this variant.

"If you have not yet gotten vaccinated, know this variant is more deadly and more contagious than others before it," he said.

Any Michigan resident who has been vaccinated was eligible to sign up for the $1 million drawing. The MI Shot to Win program also features daily drawings for $50,000 that are open to all eligible persons who received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination on the date corresponding to the $50,000 daily drawing.

Two more of those winners were announced Wednesday: Paul Bareno of Rockford and Jenna Basaj of Madison Heights.

Bareno said he recently decided that getting the vaccine was the right decision for him. He intends to use the prize money for home improvement projects and a vacation.

Meadows said he was glad to see people returning to movies and entertainment venues again.

"Please get vaccinated and protect yourself, and your family and your friends," Meadows said.

cmauger@detroitnews.com