Tacoma woman’s historic ‘Price is Right’ win started with Prada

Sheree Heil knows her shoes.

And that, says the 58-year-old Tacoma nurse, is how she was in a position to win a $157,300 car, making her the biggest daytime winner in the history of “The Price is Right” TV game show.

“It’s all still new and fresh and very unexpected, with a windfall like that,” Heil said this week. “Just a domino effect of all the coincidences that have led me to this blessing I have received.”

Heil was in the audience of about 150 when the show was filmed Dec. 9. A producer interviewed them all before the cameras rolled.

In her hot pink “Price is Right” shirt, “I just started jumping up and down: ‘I’m a nurse in the operating room, I’m so excited to be here!’ ” she recalled. “He said: ‘You don’t look excited to be here at all,’ and I said, ‘Oh, I’m not,’ in a rhetorical sort of way.”

She was picked as one of six contestants for that day’s show. But she had to earn her way onto the stage: To qualify, she had to beat four others by giving the closest estimate — without guessing too high — of the price of some random merchandise.

When a collection of Prada shoes showed up, Heil knew it was her best shot.

“I know my shoes,” she thought to herself.

She did, guessing $2,300, the closest bid to the $3,045 cost for four pairs. Heil got to keep the shoes, which were just the beginning of her winning streak.

She ran up on stage and hugged, kissed and jumped up and down with host Drew Carey, who in 2007 took over for the show’s longtime personality, Bob Barker.

She was there to play the game Gas Money, Carey told her, in which contestants guess, by process of elimination, the price of a vehicle. Told she’d be playing for an Audi R8 V8 Spyder Quattro S Tronic, Heil gasped for breath and snuggled tight against Carey’s chest.

She had five prices to choose from, and on the back of each card was an amount of cash listed, totaling $10,000. With each false price she identified, Heil could take the money and walk. If she kept playing, she risked losing it all in hope of getting the car and $10,000.

The audience shouted out suggestions, but Heil said it was too loud for her to hear much. Her son Adam Swaim, standing in a pocket of bouncing supporters, pointed and gave her hand signals.

The Audi didn’t cost $146,770, Heil said. That earned her $4,000 in cash right off the bat.

“Four thousand dollars is a lot of money!” she shouted.

It also wasn’t $141,550, she said, which was true, and raised her cash winnings to $7,000.

“That’s a lot of money!” she yelled again. But she didn’t stop and decided $163,655 was not the car’s cost. That brought her to $8,000 in prize money if she quit.

“I’m going for it!” she yelled instead.

With two choices remaining, Heil axed the price of $152,295, and clutched Carey’s hand as the model turned over the last card.

She was right again, and made “Price is Right” history.

Waiving her arms and screaming, she took a victory lap around the stage, hugged the model, leaped up and down, hopped in her new ride, and eventually doubled over sobbing.

Cut to commercial.

Back in Tacoma, she was feeling generous.

“It was my son who won that car for me, so whatever I receive, there’ll be a little ‘something, something’ for him also,” she said.

Her son was the reason Heil was in California in the first place. She was on a trip to visit him at March Air Reserve Base, where he was stationed with his wife. While there, they all got tickets to the show.

“I don’t think I ever would have just paid to go down there to ‘The Price is Right,’ ” Heil said.

She’s watched the show as long as she can remember, though. Before her grandmother passed away, they dreamed of going together, she said.

“It was in honor of my grandma,” Heil said of the big win.

Speaking of, What will she do with those winnings? Will she wear her Prada shoes and drive her Audi around Tacoma?

No on both counts, she said.

Her husband and son will get the men’s shoes, and the others will go to her daughter-in-law and her daughter-in-law’s friend, who was also at the taping.

“Just for being with me and supporting me like that,” she explained. “I love shoes, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not a high-heel wearer.”

And the black convertible, with 430 horsepower and the capability of going from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds?

She’s going to sell it.

“I don’t live that sort of lifestyle,” said Heil, who grew up “very humble” on a big South Hill-area farm where her mother still lives. “We’ll let the rich boys have it and play with it.”

There is one thing she wants to do for fun with the money: A cruise with her husband, David Groshong. He was kept in the dark from when the show was filmed until it aired Dec. 30, Heil said. She wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about the win beforehand.

“He knew something was wrong with me, because I kept having fits of ‘woowee!’ and ‘Oh my goodness,’ ” she said. “And he said: ‘What’s wrong?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know.’ They all knew something was up.”

Heil said she has until Jan. 26 to work out the logistics of where she wants the car shipped and to pay the taxes on it. She said she doesn’t know what the taxes will be, but can afford them.

“So there’s taxes,” she said. “It is what it is.”

Now it’s back to her job as a surgical technological assistant at Allenmore Hospital. She’s worked with MultiCare for about 35 years.

And while she won’t be driving her Audi to work, she plans to take pictures of her prizes for “a mini shrine to ‘Price is Right.’ “

“Every once in a while I get these moments of giddiness,” she said.

And she hopes do one thing before she sells her $157,300 wheels.

“I would love to take a spin in it.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268


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