Several people approached the couple at the event asking the same question, “Have you been to Dallas lately?” They found the inquiries peculiar, so they spoke to someone associated with the ice sculpting contest at the event. They discovered that people were asking the question in hopes of finding a mystery person and winning a trip to Super Bowl XLV.
“We decided to start asking people,” said Wright. “The fourth gentleman I asked said, ‘Well yes I have.’ I asked him, ‘Are you the contest guy?” He said, ‘Yes I am.’ We had just heard about the contest 45 seconds prior. We were blown away. We thought he was joking until the cameras arrived. We were in shock.”
The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, sponsor of the contest, is providing Super Bowl tickets, airline travel, a hotel stay and $500 for the couple. Hermes, a Sturgeon Bay native, is a lifelong Packers fan, who, according to his girlfriend, “knows every statistic about the team.” He has lived in Green Bay for three years. Wright, a mother of four, also arrived in Green Bay three years ago following 11 years in Hawaii. Her husband retired from the Navy and wanted to return to Wisconsin. She explained that the marriage fell apart, she lost her home and was cut off from Navy retirement funds leading to her current situation. Hermes and Wright, who met through a mutual friend, have been together for eight months.
“Aaron is joining me on this journey out of love,” said Wright. “He doesn’t have to be here. He could be with his family, but he’s choosing to be here with me so I won’t be alone.”
The couple begins each day by praying for jobs, she added. While Wright doesn’t have a religious background, she said that she has always had a strong belief in God, and being homeless has both tested and strengthened her faith.
“I’ve never lost faith in God,” she said, “but I have felt that maybe I wasn’t worthy anymore. I thought that maybe that’s why I’m homeless. I’ve had several epiphanies. I know that there are lessons that I’ve had to learn. God has humbled me quite a bit being in here.”
Panhandling for money at times has been extremely degrading, said Wright, but prayer brings some sense of peace.
“Every time somebody would give us money, we would pray for them and ask God to please let them receive that generosity back tenfold,” she said. “We’ve even prayed for cars that drove by and didn’t give us money. We’ve been blessed. Even though we’ve lost everything, we haven’t lost each other. We’re not sleeping outside. Wonderful volunteers feed us every night. St. John’s clothed us. We are blessed regardless of what happens from this hoopla.”
Hermes predicts a 31-17 victory for the Packers. He doesn’t have one particular favorite player, but said that Tramon Williams is the playoff MVP so far. Wright expects a 20-point victory for Green Bay. B.J. Raji is her favorite player.
When they return from Texas, they will continue to look for employment in search of a better life. Wright has experience managing a coffee shop, in real estate and as a dental assistant. Hermes is a former pizza restaurant manager who also has experience in plaster work and robot welding. Both said that they are open to any job opportunities. The Super Bowl will provide a boost in morale, said Wright.
“It has really energized us to give us the strength to keep going,” she said. “We are not any more deserving than anybody else, but maybe God had a plan to have a homeless person win this contest. Maybe God’s plan was to draw attention to the homeless, that we’re not all drunks hanging out in the streets. There are people here by circumstance. Maybe it will bring in more donations for the church.”
The couple was still waiting to find out their itinerary for the trip at press time. Hermes has never traveled by airplane and Wright has never been to a pro football game. They are embracing their new experiences with open arms, said Wright.
“I’ve got Aaron on my right side holding my hand and I’ve got God in between with his arms around us,” she said. “That’s all we need.”