1. Mesarick, Joyce RN

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It started on a night I couldn't sleep. My daughter Brittany was graduating from high school, and I was tossing and turning, so I got out of bed and went to the computer. It was about 5 AM and after ordering supplies for Brittany's graduation party, I wondered what else I could look for on the Internet. I remembered seeing a commercial for Oscar Mayer Wieners' "Win the Ride of Your Life Contest," so I thought I'd see what that was all about.


The contest asked participants to write an essay in 100 words or less on what you would do with the Wienermobile for a day and how you would spend the $5,000 prize. You see, I am a home healthcare nurse, and I usually drive a bright yellow Ford Escape. My patients get a kick out of it, and I am not hard to spot, so they know when I am coming. I had a patient who called it "the canary." So, my own car was the inspiration for my essay. The essay I wrote is as follows:


"I am a home health nurse so I drive all day. The patients I see are homebound and for some patients the nurses are the only people they see for days at a time. Wouldn't it be fun, on any given day, to see my patients in Shamokin, PA in the Wienermobile? I think that would give them something fun to talk about for a long time. As far as the money goes, we would have to feed all of my patients at least one hot dog each[horizontal ellipsis]"


I submitted the essay and didn't hear anything all summer long, so I figured that was that. However, in the middle of September I got a call from a marketing company asking me if I remembered entering the contest, and they told me I was a potential winner. Well, a few signed papers and a notary later, and sure enough I was indeed a winner!! I couldn't believe it!! There were only 20 winners out of 75,000 entrants, and I was one of them!! I am quite sure I called everyone I knew.


For the next 4 weeks I had my very own party planner, named Jessica, and we planned my ride on the Wienermobile. I was able to keep $1,500 to defray the cost of the taxes and $3,500 was to go toward The Ride. The leftover money was given to a charity in my name. I chose the Hillside SPCA in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. They are raising money to get heated floors in the kennel.


I had fun spending the money. I chose blankets, plush toys, key chains, and of course, wiener whistles for all my patients and their families. I would have the Wienermobile for 8 hours, so I had to limit the number of patients to be visited to 5 because we were also making stops at the VNA office in Shamokin and at one of our flu clinics. The patients I chose for the big day ranged in age from 34 to 91 years. I also included one of our hospice patients. Although wieners were obviously the food of choice, I had to remember that all but one of these patients had heart failure, so I needed an alternative to wieners. Probably a little disappointed, they were going to be treated to turkey sandwiches, salads, and an apple. However, their families would get to enjoy wieners!!


My big ride was scheduled for Saturday, October 22, and was departing from my home in Ringtown at 9:30 AM. Our first stop was to be the VNA, then the flu clinic, the 5 patient visits, and then back to my house to give friends and family a ride on the Wienermobile and, of course, to have a big party.


On Monday, October 17, 2005, my 15 minutes of fame began. There were interviews with newspapers, radio interviews, and telephone calls from numerous friends and well wishers. I must admit I was having a great time. I totally disrupted the VNA office because some of this activity occurred there, and my supervisor, Yvonne Timco, was very gracious about my many distractions that week. With the day fast approaching, my husband Andy had confirmed that he had Saturday off, my son Nick was home from Kutztown University, and my daughter Brittany was home from Clarion University (she even brought a friend). Everything seemed to be falling into place.


Finally, the Big Wiener Day began!! The alarm went off at 7:00 AM, but who really slept anyway? I was too excited. It was pouring rain, but who cared? I was ready to go in my new Oscar Mayer scrubs!! I got everyone up, and they too got ready. (My kids and husband were joining me on the ride.)


At 8:45 AM the telephone rang. On the other end of the line was Katie, one of the Hotdoggers (the drivers of the Wienermobile). She was crying, and I knew this was not a good sign. The Wienermobile had been vandalized in the parking lot of the hotel where the Hotdoggers were staying. Now, what you don't know is that the Wienermobile had been gearing up for this big event all week in Pottsville. Katie and Sean, the other Hotdogger, were not sure what was going to happen. They told me to sit tight. They would call me back and let me know if my ride would take place as planned. "Okay, don't panic."


Where do I begin? So many arrangements had been made. My family members had to rearrange their schedules to be here. One patient's daughter flew in from California just to be there for this special day!! The caterer was preparing more than 100 hot dogs and special turkey sandwiches. People were lining up in front of the VNA. And don't forget all the publicity leading up to the day. People were expecting the Wienermobile!!


Trying to keep my cool but losing that battle, I thought, "Why would anyone vandalize the Wienermobile? What kind of fools are we dealing with here?" I thought, what a black eye for Schuylkill County.


The telephone rang again. It was Sean. While they were at the car wash trying to get the paint and glue-like substance off the Wienermobile, a nice man named Doug from Pottsville came to the rescue. Appalled by what he saw, he called his friend from a local reconditioning shop, and he agreed to help. Sean said when they arrived, there were six people waiting to help!! With the aid of a chemical, they were able to clean the Wienermobile-and perfectly. The only thing they couldn't fix was the golf ball-size hole on the passenger side window. Now that's the Schuylkill County I know and love!! We were back in business. See, no need to panic.


Our ride began at 1 PM, instead of 9:30 AM, but everything else went according to plan. The VNA was packed with people taking pictures; I was giving out wiener whistles to everyone as if nothing happened. Each patient we saw had lots of family with them. Patients who normally don't do a lot of walking came out just to see the Wienermobile. Friends and neighbors gathered. What fun we all had taking pictures and meeting everyone. Everyone from 1 to 91 enjoyed that day. When we arrived back at our house, there must have been 50 people there to greet us!! The Hotdoggers joined the party, too, but not until they gave everyone there a ride. They are very sweet people.


It may sound corny, but the Wienermobile put a smile on a lot of faces that rainy Saturday. If you ever get the chance to ride on the Wienermobile, it's the ride of your life and I recommend it highly.