$10,000 radio prize won by mom in need
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 9:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 9:38 p.m.
It was 2:45 p.m. Melissa Branning was tired. This clearly wasn’t working.
The first call failed. The second call failed. The third and fourth tries, busy.
Surely someone had already gotten through to KISS 105.3. Someone had given the correct answer. Someone was holding a fat $10,105.30 check. Branning was so sure; she was ready to quit.
She looked around. Here she was, sitting in a laundromat on Hawthorne Road, trying to call into a radio contest, trying to win money to help her boys.
Not 20 minutes ago, her sister, Danel Branham, had texted her from Publix: “They’re doing the Secret Sound. Call now.”
For months they’d been trying to decipher the scrambled word.
Every morning at 9, Branham would track incorrect guesses on the radio’s website. Then she would share the results with Branning, who didn’t have Internet access. During the day, they would listen for the sound, formulate guesses of their own and confer.
They settled on “Domino’s.” All the clues pointed to it.
Branning, 36, had health problems, was unemployed and had three growing boys. Some days it was too much to get out of bed, the pain was so bad. Her family needed this. This was more than $10,000; this was life-changing money.
No — she couldn’t stop. Something told her to keep going.
She held up the phone and dialed KISS. The fifth and last try.
The line started ringing. Then she was on KISS 105.3, talking to Ryan Dupree, a radio DJ at the station.
Branham was sitting in the carpool line at Norton Elementary at the time. She immediately knew who was on-air.
“That sounds like my sister,” she sobbed. “My sister is on the phone for Secret Sound.”
She heard Dupree start speaking.
“Hey,” the DJ said. “You’re the 50th caller! Do you know the secret sound?”
There was a small pause. Then Branning answered.
“Domino’s,” she said.
“We’ve got everybody in the station,” Dupree continued. “Are you sure?”
She said yes and was immediately met with a round of cheering and hollering.
“You’ve won!” Dupree screamed.
“Oh my god! Oh my gosh!” she cried. She started to sob. Her breath sharpened and she started to shake. Inside the laundromat, she slammed her hand against the counter out of excitement and screamed. Then she started pacing the store.
Over the phone, Dupree asked how she planned to spend the money. Her response came in choked-up bits.
“Take care of my kids,” she said.
When she went to collect the check with her sister, Branning said she still hadn’t stopped shaking.
“So, this is mine now?” she asked hesitantly after signing the paperwork. Radio techs replied with nods and smiles.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better answer,” Dupree said. “I’m so glad we gave it to her.”
“I always told her: Don’t give up. We’re going to get through this one day,” Branham said. “I’m so happy for her. She really needs it.”
Branning couldn’t shake the smile from her face as she held the check. She said she plans to use the money on her family.
“My kids come first,” she said. “If there’s any money after providing for them, then I’ll think about using it on something we can do together.”