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'Deal Or No Deal' Very Profitable For Chicago Firefighter

Game Show Gives Away Its Largest-Ever Prize

POSTED: 8:41 am CDT April 25, 2006
UPDATED: 9:19 am CDT April 25, 2006
CHICAGO -- Lady luck was on Thorpe Schoenle's side Monday night. A contestant on NBC's "Deal or No Deal," he walked away with some really big money.

Video | Images From Big Win

"It was intense. I mean, there's a lot of pressure," Schoenle said.
He'd played the game 300 times online -- but nothing prepared the Chicago firefighter for being a contestant.
Family and friends turned out in force at Schoenle's Oak Park Church to watch the show. Although it was taped a few weeks ago, Schoenle was sworn to secrecy, unable to tell even his sisters the outcome.
"He couldn't tell me anything," one of his sisters said. "It's just been killing us all!"
"I guess he can get sued for a million dollars if he breaks contract," another of Schoenle's sisters said.
If he won enough, he promised a trip to Disney World for his three children -- Ashley, 11, Adam, 8, and Brooklyn, 4.
Schoenle's wife, Kara, went on the show with him. At one point, she watched him turn down $349,000.
"I said I was going to kill him!" she said Monday night.
But Schoenle said he had a feeling.
"Sometimes, you just go with your gut," he said.
The tension in the room at Monday's viewing party was palpable as Schoenle continued to turn down major money, pressing onward at the risk of losing nearly everything.
But did it ever pay off. He walked away with $464,000 -- the biggest prize the game show has ever given away.
"It was just an unreal event in my life -- life-changing," Schoenle said. "We're just truly blessed."
When asked if it would be a boost to his firefighter salary, he replied, "Yeah! I think I'm being paid more than the commissioner now."
Schoenle said he would live up to his promise and take his kids to Disney World. The rest of the money, the family will put aside for now.
Copyright 2006 by NBC5.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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