For the past couple years, brothers Tom and Jeff Blokel have made a habit of stopping by Boston's Gourmet Pizza at Brookside Marketplace in Tinley Park after work for a drink and a bite to eat.
It's the watering hole where the Blokels struck up a friendship with bartender Cathy McGuinn, and the three began a tradition during the visits.
READ: $1M Halloween Raffle Lottery Ticket Sold at Boston's Gourmet Pizza
"We just started playing lottery in general," said McGuinn, a Tinley Park resident who's been working at Boston's for three years. "We just put in a few bucks here and there. Then the raffle came along, and we decided to get a few tickets for that."
That raffle is the Illinois Lottery's Halloween Millionaire Raffle, and it was the reason the trio was at Boston's on Wednesday afternoon. They were celebrating their good fortune after turning in their winning $1 million ticket earlier in the day. Their ticket (the winning number was 137958) was one of four $1 million winners in the state. Each ticket cost $20, and the Blokels and McGuinn pooled their money to buy five.
"We went this morning," McGuinn, 40, said. "You would've thought we were claiming a $100 ticket. They were like, 'Next.' We filled out some paperwork. They said check's in the mail, and they sent us on our way."
While lottery officials might have played the moment off as business as usual, that's not the attitude the winners had.
"It's pretty amazing," said Tom, 38, of Tinley Park, who works in elevator construction with his brother. "Unbelievable. Something you would never expect."
The winning numbers in the lottery game were announced on Halloween, and the trio found out they won the next day, Nov. 1, after Tom checked their numbers on the computer. But they kept the good news to themselves. For the most part.
"We wanted to make sure it was real before we told anybody," said Jeff, 42, of Oak Forest, who added that he and Tom only told their wives about their lucky strike. McGuinn, however, told a few more people in her personal circle, Jeff said, laughing.
One person she didn't tell until Wednesday was her boss at Boston's, Lisa Helwig, the restaurant's manager.
"I didn't believe them when they told me," Helwig said.
Curiosity over the winning ticket had become the small talk among patrons, she said. For about a week, McGuinn didn't let on that she could answer everyone's questions when it came to wear that ticket was, Helwig added.
"It's obviously really exciting," said Helwig, adding that Boston's receives a 1 percent cut of the $1 million for selling the ticket. "No one deserves it more than Cathy. And Tom and Jeff are great guys."
Of course, the question everyone asks the three winners is what they will do with their shares of the prize money, which will be split equally between them.
"Paying off bills and kids' college. It's all going to be pretty much that," Jeff said. The other two agreed. Jeff has four kids, Tom has two, and Cathy, a single mom, has three.
"We're probably going to do a vacation sooner or later," Jeff added. "But I'm going to invest in my kids' future."
As for the exact sum each will be getting, the Blokels and McGuinn aren't sure what it will be after taxes are deducted.
"It's more than we put in," Tom said.
"Yeah, We're up," McGuinn added.
And don't think that hitting it big in the lottery once means Jeff, Tom and Cathy are putting the kibosh on their tradition. When asked if they will continue buying tickets, Jeff said: "We already have."
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