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Modified: Friday, Jan 20th, 2012

Maryjo Salzman reacts with surprise at her Aurora home on Wednesday afternoon, as executive director Dave Sayer of the Publishers Clearing House "Prize Patrol" greets her with roses and balloons. Following that, he presented her with $35,000 in winnings: one check for $25,000 and a second for $10,000. / Maryjo and Stewart Salzman, in their Aurora home, show off the two checks totaling $35,000 that she won in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. Photos by John Kubal/Register

Prize Patrol visits Aurora woman, payoff totals $35K

Even a casual television viewer has likely seen a surprise visit by the Prize Patrol from Publishers Clearing House. That's followed by the ecstatic reaction of the person who opens the front door and is greeted by the bearer of a near-billboard-sized check with a dollar amount ranging from five to eight figures. It's one of those windfalls that always happens to the other gal or guy.

But Wednesday afternoon Maryjo Salzman of Aurora became that other gal, when the PCH Prize Patrol dropped in and surprised her with a pair of checks totaling $35,000: one for $25,000, the other for $10,000, a bonus because her entry came from a special mailing address.

Not surprisingly, Maryjo and her husband, Stewart Salzman, were more than pleasantly surprised to answer the door and be greeted by Prize Patrol executive director Dave Sayer, armed with a dozen roses, multiple balloons bearing the PCH logo and the oversized checks.

Having had some time to contemplate her prize, Maryjo told the Register this morning, "I was in awe."

The visit brought obvious joy to the Salzmans, but also some mixed-in moments of silence as the couple realized they had indeed won some big money.

Maryjo, who has been entering PCH sweepstakes for several years, said she wasn't sure how she would spend the money. Surprised by the size of her prize, smiling and laughing, she said, "I was hoping to get $50 out of them."

She'll continue to play

After the Salzmans' joy settled in, Sayer talked a bit about PCH, noting that its contests and ways to enter have come to the digital age. He said, "More and more people are entering online these days, and it is a little simpler; and you can enter every day that way, too. You don't have to wait for a mailing to come along."

However, Maryjo said, "I didn't do that. I did the mailing, and I ordered some little gifts for Christmas. You had some cute stuff."

Sayer said, "Well, we appreciate that. But you know that you don't have to order in order to win."

Maryjo said she will probably keep playing, adding, "It really works." Sayer pointed out that winning did not make her ineligible to keep playing.

The timing of the prizes came nicely; Maryjo has been off the job for about two weeks, following a pulled muscle that later affected her sciatic nerve.

While $35,000 is a big prize, there is "the" grand prize: "$1 million every year for life."

Since 1967, PCH has paid out more than $228 million in prizes and awards. Payouts are 100 percent authentic, and as Sayer pointed out no purchase is necessary for those who want to enter PCH sweepstakes.

One element of the PCH sweepstakes that the general public needs to be aware of is that scammers have attempted to bilk money out of people with false claims about PCH and its sweepstakes.

First and foremost is to realize that PCH never demands up-front money from its sweepstakes winners. Anyone who contacts someone claiming to represent PCH and demanding money up front to pay taxes on winnings or to pay processing fees before the money is awarded is a fraud and should be reported to local law enforcement authorities.

Those who want to see if they can get PCH to work for them can go to the PCH website, pch.com, and register to win $1 million a year for life; Sayer called that PCH's "newest and biggest" contest, which will be coming along in February.

One viewing option on the website is pchtv.com, which offers a variety of online games; finally, there's PCHSearch&Win.com.

All in a day's work

Good work if you can get it. That sort of sums up Sayer's job, which is handing out big checks, both in size and amount. He likes giving away money.

On one occasion, he gave away $21 million. "That's eight digits. I've given $10 million away many times. Twice in Minnesota: one in St. Paul, one in St. Cloud. I've given away $225 million myself."

Sayer has also been to South Dakota in the past and given away prizes, two or three times in Sioux Falls.

He explained, "I do most of the prizes, but we have a lot of other people that do it. Another guy and I founded Prize Patrol 23 years ago. We've made a lot of trips."

Contact John Kubal at jkubal@-brookingsregister.com.

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