The Write a Letter, Win a Home contest officially ended July 5 at midnight, leaving the fate of the home, hoemowner, and contestants left to a final count.
Homeowner Alla Wagner started the contest Jan. 5, inviting people to write creatively about what owning her custom-built 4,000 square foot, two-storey 2011 Millarville home would mean to them. That contest reached its ultimate deadline last week, with letters still rolling in.
In the six months since the contest started, Teresa Carey, a friend of Wagner’s, said the best part has been the community built by the entrants.
"I feel like it's become a community of contestants, not just people entered a contest and hope to win something," said Teresa Carey, a friend of Wagner's. "It's people entered a contest and are all in it together, aside from the trolls of course."
Carey entered the contest back in January, and through the community got to know Wagner and said a friendship grew after she reached out to offer any help she could, following the Alberta Gaming Cannabis and Liquor investigation, negative headlines, fake accounts, and other negative impacts.
Carey has helped with the website and social media for the contest, saying she knew she had forfeited her chances of winning by becoming involved in the contest.
The deadline for the contest had been extended twice—first to May 5, and again to July 5 no later than 11:59 p.m.—to allow more time to organize the thousands of letters with payments and to accept more applications. Wagner also lowered the asking price of the home, making the new minimum of letters to cover the cost of the home 60,000, rather than the original 68,0000.
Carey said Wagner has not disclosed how many letters she has received to date, per the directions set by her lawyers, and that the final announcement would come a few weeks after the deadline once the official counts have been completed.
In addition to lowering the price of the home—and thereby the minimum number of entries—the winner will receive one year of taxes and utilities, up to $10,000.
The success of the contest was dependent on the minimum number of letters with payment being received. Should that have not been accomplished, Carey said every contestant will be refunded by mail or e-transfer to the address provided by the entrant, less any postage or bank charges that may apply.
“She’s really wanting this to succeed,” said Carey the day before the deadline. “If she doesn’t get enough entries, she will be refunding every entrant (…) that would be heart-breaking on the one hand, and also a great deal of stress on her on the other.
“We’re all crossing our fingers that people will come through and open their hearts a bit and really feel the gravity of the situation.”
As the deadline approached, the weight of the contest was felt by Wagner after being taken to the hospital via ambulance on July 3.
Wagner came home on Thursday, according to Carey, but is functioning at a minimal level and will focus on her health for the next several days.
Wagner has been confined to an office chair on the upper level of her home since a back injury last summer, prompting her to try to sell her home to move into a bungalow.
After receiving no offers, she took the house off the market in late January so as to not impact the contestants’ hope, but put it back on in early March in case the contest isn’t successful.
Wagner told the Western Wheel in April that the contest was too hard on her health to extend any longer than the original extension of May 5. That didn't stop her from pushing further, with the final extension to July.
"A lot of (her health situation) has been the stress of the contest," said Carey. "It's been very difficult for her. And the stress of the trolls, she really feels criticized and it really hurts her genuinely.
"She's only human, and I guess people are used to everything being so removed with the Internet, and people just come to take shots at others."
In addition to Wagner’s personal investment in the contest’s success, she has pledged to donate five per cent of the net proceeds of the contest to the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.
Wagner was unavailable for comment due to health reasons.