CONCORD, N.C. -- Ron and Sharon Ashmore have had life experiences most people could never even dream of.
“This was us at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Here we watched a live taping of Wheel of Fortune. We also went on a fabulous trip to Australia and met cute animals,” smiled Sharon, pointing to several photos on her kitchen counter.
“Here I am, at a Kansas City baseball game, right after I had the chance to throw three pitches to win a million dollars,” she said.
Ron points to another photo, and later references a giant poster-sized check for $10,000. He didn’t get the $1 million dollar pitch, not that he or Sharon are complaining.
The stories can go on and on, because the Ashmore's are some of America’s most successful “sweepers.” They are among people who enter and win sweepstakes by winning big. And winning all the time, they’re able to travel and enjoy major prizes all for free.
Sharon entered her first sweepstakes in 1994, which won the entire family that trip to the Orange Bowl. That trip turned Ron into a believer. Since then, every morning, like clockwork, the pair enters into sweepstakes for nearly four hours a piece. They enter online, via mail-in forms, and by text message.
“[I enter] about 200 on the Internet each day,” said Sharon.
Over the course of nearly 20 years, the pair has won some incredible experiences and prizes. They've won the stainless steel grill on their deck, tickets to the Panthers, and a race package that included a meet-and-greet with Richard Petty.
They've also reeled in spa vacation, a nine-foot-wide Star Wars Millennium Falcon, countless t-shirts, and dining gift cards. The kicker is they've also won a brand new Ford Focus, and $10,000 three different times.
“Whenever the FedEx or the UPS truck pulls in the driveway, we’re racing each other to the door to see what we’ve got,” said Sharon.
Sharon says along with the wins, there is a darker side to sweeping, too.
“You have to be diligent to know whether it’s a scam or not. Never pay to enter a sweepstakes. Never send any real personal information. The only time to give out your Social Security number is when you get something substantial and there’s an affidavit for your taxes,” she explained.
What about taxes? Surely the Ashmore's must be paying a lot for their tens of thousands of dollars in wins over the years.
“It’s taxed like income. We definitely have a very good CPA do our taxes for us. There are some things you can write off, like the cost to enter, stamps for mail-ins.”
But just as important as all the wins are the memories and the experiences the Ashmore's have had meeting other sweepers.
“There are a lot of sweepers around the U.S., and we usually help each other. We believe what comes around goes around, and it’s true. All the friends we’ve made from sweeping, and the experiences we otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience.”