BEDFORD — Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres on Friday provided the ultimate surprise to a local family who thought they came in second-place for a gift-wrapping contest.
But the joke was on the Suozzo family when DeGeneres, during a filming of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” at the Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank, Calif., asked the five Suozzo audience members to take a seat on the Ellen stage.
The stunned Bedford family chatted with Ellen about the Scotch Brand’s Most Gifted Wrapper contest held last December, clueless as to what was about to happen next.
“You are not second place — you are the winners,” said DeGeneres as a $16,000 check was presented to the family. “And then I learned more about your story and I wanted to contribute to that.”
A second check with an additional $20,000 was then presented to the shocked Suozzo family.
“That is incredible. Thank you,” Jana Suozzo told DeGeneres. “Wow. Oh my gosh.”
Jana Suozzo lost her husband, Ralph, in March of 2018 after he struggled with multiple system atrophy, a rare neurodegenerative disorder. She said the family, including her four children — two daughters and two sons — were dreading the holidays without him.
Her oldest daughter, Taylor, heard about the contest and decided to wrap her brother’s room in holiday wrapping paper while he was still away during his first semester of college.
“I stayed up really late on a Sunday night wrapping the rest of it,” Taylor told DeGeneres, adding she also skipped studying for a biology test to get the job done.
Everything in the room was wrapped in red holiday paper — the bed, dresser, desk, wall decor and more. Zach Suozzo said he was looking forward to returning home from college to enjoy his cozy room and take a nap.
“Obviously I couldn’t do that,” he said Friday during the show. “It is still wrapped.”
Their mom decided to enter a photo of Zach’s room into the contest, hoping that the picture might make its way to Ellen’s Facebook page and make the family smile.
The family thought they were invited to Friday’s show as audience members since they came in second-place for the contest. They were unaware of their actual first-place award, as well as the prize money, until they were asked to take the stage.
“I am so sorry for everything you have been through. That is hard, I am sure, for the whole family,” said DeGeneres. “… I hope this brings you more joy.”
With four children to raise, college tuition to pay and Jana Suozzo previously quitting her job to take care of her husband, DeGeneres said she hoped the extra money will be useful.
“Oh my gosh, Ellen, thank you so much,” said an overwhelmed Jana Suozzo.