A Long Island plumber who has been laboring seven days a week for the last month helping Sandy victims won a million dollars in a New York Lottery game.
Tony Auriemma, of Greenlawn, bought his winning Color of Money scratch-off after a 12-hour workday replacing damaged boilers and hot water heaters in communities like Oceanside.
"They haven't had heat or hot water since the storm and their lives are totally changed down there," Auriemma, 38, said. "It's bad."
Ironically, if not for Sandy, Auriemma would have missed buying the winning ticket on November 18. The father of three was supposed to be away on his annual hunting trip, but his Sandy-related workload forced him to cancel.
"We scratched it off and started screaming," Auriemma said. "We thought we won a hundred thousand dollars and then my wife said, 'no, it's a million dollars!' And I said, 'oh, my God!'"
Auriemma, his wife Jennifer and mother-in-law Frances Brauer were introduced as winners Thursday at Lottery headquarters in Garden City. The Auriemmas and Brauer will split the prize, with each taking home about $16 thousand a year for twenty years.
Despite his prize, Auriemma continues working, prompting the obvious question from his customers.
"They were like, 'I can't believe you're still here?' And I was like, 'I want to make you happy,'" Auriemma said. "To see the smiles on their faces when I give them hot water and heat, it's like they won the million dollars."
Auriemma still has at least several weeks more of work for Sandy victims. And he doesn't seem to mind one bit.
"Even before I won the money, I felt blessed helping these people," he said.
As for his winnings, Auriemma said he plans to use it to pay for his children's college educations.