Nicci Cowdell's Story
As a single parent who suffers with severe psoriatic arthritis, I am unable to work but find lots of enjoyment in entering comps and the rewards they can bring. I’ve always had the buzz since I was about 13 years old after I entered my first comp and won something.
It was a massive selection of wrestling goodies including books, a belt and T-shirt. It wasn’t the main prize, but a runner-up, yet to me a prize is a prize and at that time I loved wrestling, so it was perfect. After that I didn’t win much. I’d sit at home thinking that there was no way I’d win anything else. I’d had my streak of luck. I was right for a while, probably because thinking back I didn’t enter that many. After the birth of my second child, seven years ago, I was diagnosed with arthritis and felt quite low, so decided I’d have a bash at comping again, remembering the excitement I felt when my first prize arrived. It wasn’t long before a slow but steady trickle of little prizes came in. Nothing to brag about, but it lifted my spirits and was the inspiration I needed to keep entering. A DVD here, a CD there and with every little win I was determined to enter more comps, so I won more and more.
My children Bradley (8) and Bethany (7) are equally in love with the feeling you get when the postie arrives with a winning parcel. They have had many DVDs, CDs, toys, games, books, bags, stationery and movie goodie bags, but the best prize my son won was a VIP trip to Woburn Safari Park with overnight accommodation and £100 spending money. We even got to go off-track with our own ranger and got up-close to some of the big animals. We don’t get the chance to go on that many trips as they can be quite expensive, but this was a lovely day that we all enjoyed. My daughter on the other hand, will tell you her favourite is the jungle gym climbing frame she won in the ‘Win Your Dream Prize’ comp from out of a children’s magazine. I will admit that I was a little worried when the lady phoned to tell me she’d won, as they didn’t specify the size. When we saw it on the truck, we didn’t even know if it would fit in the garden, but luckily, when it was unpacked and erected, we were all pleasantly surprised. It has a massive tower with a shelter (which even has a telescope and periscope on it!), a red wavy slide, a rope and climbing wall. Underneath there is a table and bench set. We are now the local play centre for the kids in our neighbourhood!
My daughter Bethany was entered in this year’s That’s Life ‘Smile of the Year’ competition and was short listed into the finals. A professional photographer came to the house to photograph all the family and what a fun four hours that was. I was so surprised when I opened my copy of That’s Life to find out that she was the overall winner, bagging herself the top £1,000 prize. She bought Bradley a PSP games console and herself a Bratz camera, Bratz MP3 player and a CD player. I put some money aside for them to spend on our holiday and the rest was banked for them when they are older. I was so proud to see my children in the magazine – just think! I nearly didn’t enter, what a mistake that would have been!
We’ve even won prizes for our pets in the Asda Pet Factor competition. Our three finches Zac, Cody and Maddy came third and won a load of Bill Oddie bird goodies which included bird food, a signed Bill Oddie book and wild bird food with a feeder. Our dog Buster was in the top ten of the Oust/ Best magazine comp last year too. We really are a family of compers!
We’ve also had a trip to Butlins which my mum and dad took the kids on. They stayed at the Skyline hotel in Bognor Regis for four nights, with breakfast included and had a wonderful time. My mum had never stayed in a hotel and really enjoyed this holiday. The kids even met Keith Chegwin while he was out doing his GMTV show. We’ve had zoo trips, theme park days out and a three-day spa break for two, which my younger sister and her boyfriend attended as a treat after the birth of their first baby. Last year’s star prize was an all-expenses paid trip to Wimbledon with champagne and strawberry reception and lunch. Unfortunately I was quite ill with my arthritis and couldn’t travel that far, so a lucky relative who is tennis mad enjoyed the prize instead.
People may think I’m a little strange because I don’t enter foreign holiday comps. I don’t have a passport and couldn’t choose which family members or friends to give them too, so I don’t bother and just hope for holidays closer to home. So far this year I’ve had the usual DVDs, CDs, toys and beauty products which are all gratefully received and the ones I don’t use are put to one side for birthdays and Christmas presents which saves loads of money and the hassle of shopping for things.
As well as these I’ve had over £1,500 cash from various sources including Terry’s Chocolate Orange, magazine prizes and on-line survey web sites. I didn’t think anyone won on those types of comps, but it just proves how wrong I was. I also won a designer top worth £100 off the Internet too. The smallest prize I’ve won is a bar of chocolate, but hey, that’s one less bar that I had to buy and the children ate it in seconds!
In a couple of months, I’m moving house to be closer to my parents who help me and my children. I’ll need to sort out the new house and garden, so I’m entering all the home and garden comps I can find. I’m really looking forward to summer as there are always plenty of great comps to find and enter, then just sit back and wait for those Long White Envelopes with winning news. One of my latest prizes to arrive is a letter from the Spar supermarket chain. It’s a popular Woodland Trust hedge and copse pack for our local primary school. My children took it to the head teacher. She was very excited as they’re in the middle of re-building the school after a fire ripped through most of the building last Easter. It will be great to see all the children at school have a fun day planting and watching them grow into a lovely garden for them to enjoy.
My ultimate prize would be an LCD flat screen TV. I’ve been trying to win one of these. No luck just yet, but I’ll be back in touch if, or should I say when, I win one of these. The only trouble is that I’ve now won so many things, I hate to buy anything just in case I win it!
My only tip for winning is to make sure you enter! After all, if you don’t enter, then you’ll never win anything. Also only enter for things you want or need. Good Luck everyone!