A Winning System Page 2

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HOME IMPROVEMENT The Ludlows bought their 100-year-old farmhouse in 1990, and it's been a work in progress ever since. Kevin recounts that they "gutted the place down to the studs and rewired, replumbed, and drywalled the entire house." During the renovation, he realized that the new basement could be something special. "That turned into my space," he says with a smile. "My vision was to have an entertainment room."

Kevin says he got the idea for a projection system from reading Sound & Vision. "I knew one was out of our budget, but it was still the kind of system I wanted to have. I even dropped speaker wiring into the walls, planning for a home theater."

The Ludlows' old "home theater" included a 32-inch Sears TV they got for Christmas a couple of years ago and a DVD player and VCR "we connected to our Bose Wave radio, which we received in a gift exchange from Uncle Butch. This created a poor man's surround."

When he saw the makeover contest in S&V, Kevin decided to enter. "It was one of those things where you knew you weren't going to win, but you went ahead and tried anyhow. I wanted a nice room for our family, and this was my best chance to have something done before the kids went off to college."

But, like any great procrastinator, Kevin didn't fill out his entry right away. "I had the magazine for maybe two weeks, thinking, 'I'll do it, I'll get around to it.' Then late one night, I just sat down and wrote how I felt. I sent it off thinking that no one was going to read it."

Cara was the one who got the phone call from XM with the news that they'd won the grand prize. "I was speechless," she recalls. "I just kept saying, 'Are you kidding me?' I didn't think Kevin could write anything that would win a contest. I can barely get him to write a thank-you card for Christmas! I've known Kevin for 17 years, and I've never seen him smile like that - even with the birth of our children."

Even after the call, Kevin couldn't believe his good fortune. "I kept thinking it was some kind of scam - someone trying to get my credit card number or something. But when the editors from Sound & Vision called, I knew it was for real."

When people asked Kevin what he'd won, he told them he wasn't sure. "The contest just said that the grand prize would be a home-entertainment system featuring an HDTV, a Polk Audio XM tuner, one year of XM service, a DVD player, and a 5.1-channel surround sound system. The only thing I knew for sure was that it would be Polk speakers - which would have been part of the dream system I'd have assembled on my own if I could have afforded it."

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