Rethlake picks good time to start winning contests

Chelsea Rethlake (right) won a trip to New York City by participating in JCPenney’s “Merry Christmas America” promotion, which involved collecting free holiday buttons from the store and entering the codes on the back into a website to win prizes.
Chelsea Rethlake (right) won a trip to New York City by participating in JCPenney’s “Merry Christmas America” promotion, which involved collecting free holiday buttons from the store and entering the codes on the back into a website to win prizes. Photo by Steve Clark.

Chelsea Rethlake has never had much luck in contests.
But she picked a good time to start.

Rethlake won a vacation from JCPenney after visiting the Huntington location and participating in the store's "Merry Christmas America" promotion. It's a nationwide campaign that has seen JCPenney stores hand out 80 million free holiday buttons with codes printed on the back. Customers are instructed to visit a website where they can input the codes and see if they've won a prize, which could be anything from a gift card to merchandise.
Or, in Rethlake's case, a trip.

Rethlake was skeptical when she received an email from JCPenney informing her she had won a trip. Her skepticism waned when she spoke to a representative from the company that informed her paperwork would be arriving in the mail, and her doubt faded away completely when she opened up her mailbox.

"I got the paperwork and said, ‘This is real!'" Rethlake says.

"I don't win anything. I really don't. I don't ever win. So, to win a vacation, that's kind of crazy," she says.

Trip winners can pick from a variety of destinations, including Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City, Yellowstone National Park and Los Angeles, and take up to three guests with them for the five-day, four-night stay. Trip winners also receive $1,000 in spending money.

Four trip-winning buttons are distributed per state, Huntington JCPenney Store Leader Betty Sands says, and to her knowledge, Rethlake is one of only two people to have won in Indiana.

Rethlake settled on the Big Apple and will be accompanied by her two best friends this summer when she's on-break from her position as a seventh grade math teacher at Manchester Junior/ Senior High School.

For Rethlake, it will be much more than a trip as she terms it "a huge blessing."

"I'm going through cancer treatment for the second time right now," she says.

"And so it's just like such an awesome thing that... after I get done with this year of wonderful treatment, I will get to have a vacation," she says.

Complete caption: Chelsea Rethlake (right) won a trip to New York City by participating in JCPenney’s “Merry Christmas America” promotion, which involved collecting free holiday buttons from the store and entering the codes on the back into a website to win prizes. Rethlake holds some of those buttons in the Huntington JCPenney store, where she got her prize-winning button, with Store Leader Betty Sands.