ROCKINGHAM — Brainpower, strategy and a little luck led Tonya Brown of Ellerbe to the Richmond County Daily Journal’s golden seashell for the second time.
Brown won the newspaper’s Golden Seashell Hunt and its $500 prize after finding the coveted conch shell Tuesday evening near a community building across the street from Castlewood Park.
Teaming up with Brown to seek out the shell were her son, 18-year-old Corey Brown, and two children in Tonya Brown’s care, 2-year-old Liliahna and 5-month-old Jayden.
“We called my fiancé, and then he started sending the pictures to all our friends and family,” Brown said.
Tonya Brown and her son toted Liliahna and Jayden to the Daily Journal office on Wednesday morning to turn in the seashell and claim the grand prize. Other hopefuls can still enter a $100 second-chance drawing.
“We’re very happy for Ms. Brown and her family and we congratulate them on finding the seashell,” said Judy Cagle, the Daily Journal’s business development manager and organizer of the treasure hunt. “I think the secret to her finding the shell is that she goes to the advertiser who gets the clue a day in advance.”
The 11th of 12 clues appeared in Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Journal. Brown visited contest sponsor Carolina Jewelry & Pawn on East Broad Avenue to get an early look. Sponsors post each clue at their business the day before it is published in the newspaper.
Clues began appearing July 30 in a special advertising section published periodically. To encourage participants to read the paper each day, the contest rules prohibited the sharing of clues by phone and online.
Brown has won the Daily Journal’s Easter egg and golden football treasure hunts one time each in addition to her two shell hunt victories. Her family started participating in the contests a few years ago as a way to stave off summer boredom.
“We had summer camp kids who would all stay at my house,” Brown said. “Instead of them tearing my house apart, I said, ‘Let’s go out and look for these clues.’”
Brown previously operated a kids’ summer day camp and her home is always filled with children she’s taking care of on a short-term or long-term basis.
“We’re kind of like the Brady Bunch times two,” she said. “Our house has always been kind of the go-to home. We’ve always had a full house.”
The Browns and their campers enjoyed the challenge of trying to interpret the clues and soon found that they were learning more about Richmond County at each stop along the way.
“When you’re looking, you always come across something you didn’t even know was there,” Brown said. “When you get the maps out, you find all kinds of creeks and fishing spots and places like that you didn’t know about. It’s exercise, and it keeps your mind thinking.”
Brown said she got a late start on the seashell hunt this year and only began looking after the sixth clue was published.
“I said the last time I probably wasn’t going to do it anymore, but then the little ones come up,” she said. “I just do it for them.”
The little ones who helped track down the seashell will benefit from the prize money, Brown said. She plans to spend it on baby clothing and toys and let her son Corey use some of the cash for repairs to his Ford pickup truck.
“He’s going to get the rest of it for his truck,” Brown said, “because he just got his driver’s license.”
The Daily Journal will publish an entry form for the second-chance drawing in the 12th and final installment of the 2014 Golden Seashell Hunt special advertising section.