By Polly Keary, Editor
Mechelle Russell’s dad was shaving and everyone else was asleep at 6:30 Monday morning last week when the family’s ordinary morning took a turn for the extraordinary.
Their quiet neighborhood was invaded by the sound of a marching band that arrived right at the Russell family’s door, whereupon the doorbell rang.
That’s how Mechelle Russell, a 2009 graduate of Monroe High School who volunteers at the YMCA, found that, of more than 100,000 people who’d been entered into a sweepstakes for voting in the 2012 KING 5 Best of Western Washington contest, her name had been selected, and she had just been awarded $5,000.
“It was a complete and total surprise,” said Mechelle’s mom, Cecille Russell, several days later. “The marching band was in the cul-de-sac and they called out Mechelle’s name on the megaphone, and there was a camera with a big spotlight, and the band was all in red suits, and we had no idea what was going on.”
She did recognize Jim Dever from King 5′s Evening Magazine, however, which was something of a clue.
Dever asked if Mechelle was home. When she arrived at the door, she was given startling news about the sweepstakes she’d entered by voting in the annual contest.
“I was the grand prize winner for $5,000,” said Mechelle.
The surprise was the result of some careful planning on the part of King 5, said Eric Riddle, who was the producer of the television segment created for the event.
“The complications of trying to ambush somebody is the challenging part,” said Riddle. “We ambush them first thing in the morning, to make sure we get them.”
They did a little research and found that Mechelle lived with her parents in the Fryelands area. So they assembled a large prize presentation committee in nearby Lake Tye Park at 6:20 a.m. and set out for her house.
Among the presenters were the Snohomish High School Marching Band, chosen because that school had been named the school with the most spirit in the annual contest. Also, there were two security guards from West Seattle Coins, who accompanied $5,000 in coins in several hefty sacks (The coins were merely props; the Russell family will get a $5,000 check). There was a television crew from Evening Magazine, as well as Dever, the host of the show. And there were members of the Monroe Police Department, as well.
It turned out that, in spite of all their careful planning, the group nearly missed Mechelle anyway.
“We were very lucky we got her,” said Riddle. “Her mom was supposed to take someone to the airport to go to New York that morning. But the flight was cancelled because of the storm on the East Coast.”
The storm that was such a catastrophe to so many on the other side of the nation did happen to have one pleasant outcome for the producers of the show; the young woman to whom they presented the prize turned out to be a very rewarding person to whom to give a gift. Mechelle is slightly developmentally delayed, but spends a lot of time volunteering in the community.
She devotes a lot of time to the Monroe YMCA.
“I volunteer at the front desk,” she said. “I check people in.”
She is also very involved in the Capernaum Young Life organization, a national group for children and young adults with disabilities. Mechelle helps lead the Snohomish County chapter of the club, planning activities and serving as a camp counselor.
And she is an enthusiastic participant in the Special Olympics, bowling and playing softball, soccer and basketball.
While at Monroe High School, she was part of the pep rally group, as well, and is well known among her graduating class.
“She was a sweetheart,” said Riddle.
Mechelle said that she already has plans for her winnings.
“We’re going to Disneyland,” she said.