Tyrone woman twists open the chance of a lifetime

Brenda McNelis of Tyrone said she doesn’t have a very lucky family; but those who know the McNelis’ may beg to differ.
Just a couple of years ago, Brenda was the lucky winner of a $2,000 sweepstakes contest sponsored by the local BiLo supermarket store in Tyrone. Now, she has the possibility to strike it even richer – $1 billion richer.
Earlier this summer, her husband Jeff began searching the internet for the twist off lids of pepsi products. Inside these lids were printed codes that could be punched into an Internet website for a chance to win a $1 million or even $1 billion dollars.
Imagine the excitement when the McNelis’ returned from their family vacation this summer to a FedEx package letting them know they were chosen, along with 999 other individuals, who will appear on television to play a game of chance and then endure a nail-biting elimination process to win $1 million. On the show, the $1 million winner will then have a chance to win the $1 billion prize – the largest cash giveaway ever.
“I couldn’t beleive it was for real, it was to good to be true,” said McNelis. “For years, we played different lotteries and entered sweepstakes, and except for the $2,000 BiLo sweepstakes, we haven’t been too lucky. But now, maybe the luck is changing.”
Brenda admits that it was her husband who actually won the sweepstakes, but noted that his fear of flying will keep him from jumping on an airplane heading to Orlando, Fla. in early September. Instead, she’s going to go.
“I was entering the numbers online and about a week after I started, I hit it,” said Jeff. “I guess it was luck.”
“We’re just so excited,” said Brenda, who made note that if she wins, she will pay for her 16-year-old daughter Hilary’s college education, pay off all her family’s debts and “just have fun.”
She said Pepsi is paying for her Sept. 13 trip, but said she has to pay for Hilary’s airline ticket, who will accompany her.
“I just want to see Drew Carey,” said Hilary, noting the television star will host the show. “I still can’t beleive it.”
Although she isn’t sure what she will have to do when she arrives in Florida, she said she’s just happy to be going.
“I know for sure that I have to pick a six-digit number,” she said. “Then, I guess we have to go to a computer room and put those numbers in just to make sure none of the contestants have the same number. They also told me something about a monkey picking a number, but I’m really not sure.”
Brenda said even if she doesn’t win the big jackpot, she’s still excited about the trip. She, nor Hilary, have ever been to Florida. They said they were both excited to see the inner workings of how a television show is produced.
Brenda said they nearly missed this “chance of a lifetime.”
“We were on vacation and the FedEx truck kept showing up with the package announcing we were a winner,” said Brenda. “There was an certain date that you had to respond by, and we got it just five days before the deadline.”
Brenda is married to Jeff and they have three children: Hilary, 24-year-old Adam and 31-year-old J.J. Her winning diet Mountain Dew bottle was purchased at a local supermarket.
The two-hour, “Pepsi Play for a Billion” television special, scheduled to air on Sept. 14 on The WB, will be hosted by television star and comedian Drew Carey.
Pepsi-Cola North America, headquartered in Purchase, N.Y., is the $4 billion refreshment beverage unit of PepsiCo, Inc. in the United States and Canada. Its U.S. brands include Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Twist, Pepsi One, Pepsi Blue, Wild Cherry Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Mountain Dew Code Red, Mountain Dew LiveWire, Mug, Sierra Mist, Slice, Aquafina, SoBe, Dole single-serve juices and FruitWorks.
The company also makes and markets North America’s No. 1 ready-to-drink iced teas and coffees, respectively, via joint adventures with Lipton and Starbucks.