Real Life

Tokens to Riches: The heartwarming story of a woman who just went from financial woes to riches in minutes

'I couldn't afford to retire before 67, and even after that I didn't know how I'd get by financially.'
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Nearly 50,000 Take 5 readers collected gold tokens in the magazine last year to go in the running to win our life-changing $100,000 jackpot prize.

And last month, we flew the five finalists from all over Australia to Sydney so one of them could be presented with the winning cheque.

All five were guaranteed a cool $1000 prize for getting to the final, but there was tension in the air as the moment of truth approached.

To decide the winner, we set up five huge black balloons.

Four of them were full of purple and green confetti but one held gold confetti.

Whoever chose the gold would be $100,000 richer!

Meet our five lucky Token to Riches finalists:

Suzanne Allen, 67, from Casino, NSW

Suzanne is a retired medical receptionist.

She’s been married to her husband, Ian, for 48 years and has two adult children.

She also has eight grandchildren and one great-grandson.

In her spare time, Suzanne volunteers at her local pre-school.

Suzanne thrust her pin into 
the balloon and purple and green confetti floated to the floor.

Megan Burgoyne, 44, Battery Point, Tas,

Megan works for the State Government in the local shellfish industry.

She was born in the US but has lived in Australia since she was 12 years old.

She’s been an Aussie citizen for 24 years.

Megan loves knitting and crocheting.

Crosswords are her favourite puzzle.

The crowd held their breath as Megan popped the second balloon to reveal purple and green confetti.

Merelle Perry, 67, from Glenvale, Qld,

Merelle has been married for 49 years.

She has two sons and four grandchildren.

She loves to play bingo each week and has been reading Take 5 since the very first issue.

Merelle pricked her balloon and purple and green confetti exploded out.

Raylene Hepburn, 54, from Windaroo, Qld,

Raylene works as a stock controller for a cabinet making firm.

She loves hiking in her spare time and has been reading Take 5 every week since it first came out 21 years ago.

Sharyn Ljuna, 62, from Encounter Bay, SA,

Sharyn has five adult children and has been working night shifts in aged care for the past 12 years.

Take 5-ers Paul and Kate with finalists of the Tokens to Riches competition.

Now it was down to the final two. Sharyn and Raylene held up their needles and the moment of truth arrived…

Sharyn Ljuna, 62, Encounter Bay, shares the moment her life changed;

My heart hammered in my chest as I stared at the black balloon floating in front of me.

What was hidden inside could change my life.

“Good luck,” I said to Raylene, the woman next to me.

We were the last two standing in a Take 5 comp to win $100,000 that had received 50,000 entries.

I felt sick with nerves but also thrilled I’d even gotten this far.

“Five, four, three, two…” the crowd yelled.

As I raised the pin, ready to find out my fate, I couldn’t believe this was happening.

I’d been a stay-at-home mum for 30 years, raising my five beautiful children.

Since I’d spent three decades caring for the kids, I only had a small superannuation fund to fall back on.

I was 52 years old and couldn’t afford to retire.

So I got a job in the aged care sector.

Working five nights a week was gruelling but helping the elderly in their final years was so rewarding.

They helped me as much as I did them.

Raylene and I popped our balloons at the same time.

I didn’t regret anything but money was tight.

I couldn’t afford to retire before 67, and even after that I didn’t know how I’d get by financially.

So when I saw the Tokens to Riches competition in Take 5, I knew I had to give it a shot.

I collected the tokens in every weekly and monthly issue and sent in two sheets of tokens.

Then one lunchtime, my phone rang.

“You’re one of our five finalists,” Michelle from Take 5 said excitedly.

I was so gobsmacked!

She explained that to determine the winner, five black balloons would be placed in front of the finalists.

One would have gold confetti inside.

We had to pick that balloon to win the jackpot.

Suddenly, I was showered with gold confetti.

Excited, I passed on the good news to my kids. But which balloon I should pick?

“You should pick the fourth one,” my son decided.

The fourth balloon sounded good but his partner disagreed!

She thought the third balloon would be luckiest.

The decision weighed on me, but I finally went with my son’s gut.

My sister, Christine, and I already felt like winners as we flew to Sydney and were put up in a fancy hotel, The Vibe.

I was a bundle of nerves walking to the venue through the busy city streets.

Then a pigeon landed in front of us, blocking our way. Could that be…? I wondered.

My dad had raced the birds for 45 years.

Since he passed away, I felt close to him every time a pigeon landed near me.

“Hi Papa,” I said to the bird.

Was it good luck?

At the venue, all the finalists gathered around the balloons – now it all came down to chance and luck.

I followed my son’s advice and picked the fourth one.

I burst into tears of joy.

My eyes blinked as I raised my pin and popped the balloon.

Gold confetti exploded over me as the crowd cheered.

“Congratulations Sharyn, you’re our winner!” the editor Paul cried.

I couldn’t stop crying tears of joy when I was presented with my huge cheque of $100,000.

“This will change my life,” I said, choking up.

I still can’t believe I won

I don’t have any plans to splurge.

I want to be practical.

This money means I won’t have to work the rest of my life just to get by.

But even after I retire, I still want to volunteer at my aged care centre.

Those elderly people have given me so much joy and I want to dedicate my time to them as much as I can.

Now I’m looking forward to a retirement without worrying how I’ll survive and that’s priceless.

Thanks Take 5!

Paul handed me the cheque – I could hardly believe it.

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