Last month, Alex Brown was driving while his wife, Kelly, rode in the passenger seat, checking her phone. “All of a sudden she started shouting, ‘We won! We won!’” remembers Alex. Little did he know that his wife had entered them into Visit California’s Dreaming On in California sweepstakes, a contest created to help people make up for missed moments in 2020. After a tough year that forced Alex and Kelly, who both serve in the Navy, to put so much of their life on hold, the win came at the perfect time.
Currently stationed in San Diego, the Browns are no strangers to spending milestones apart. Over the last few years, deployments have made it such that one partner will be halfway across the world while the other is in SoCal, working full-time while taking care of their three-year-old daughter and Alex’s 12-year-old son from a previous relationship.
But 2020 was supposed to be different. Both Alex and Kelly were slated to remain stateside, which meant a big vacation to celebrate his 40th birthday and a promotion for both to lieutenant commander. Alex was especially excited because his promotion ceremony was scheduled to take place at Petco Park during a Padres game. “I’m a huge fan,” he says.
Of course, 2020 had other plans. The couple found themselves juggling childcare and COVID-19 restrictions, which were especially strict for active-duty service members.
Disappointed that her husband hadn’t been able to enjoy his big birthday, Kelly secretly entered him to win an extra-special San Diego experience, which included two nights at the Omni San Diego Hotel, a Petco Park Tour, premium seats at a Padres game, and a Coronado cruise with the Gondola Company.
A week after the couple found out they won, Kelly learned that she would need to leave for her next deployment earlier than expected, and would miss the game. Still, Kelly was thrilled for her husband. “He truly is a hero and is overly deserving of a belated 40th birthday gift,” she says.
Alex brought his brother-in-law, Jason, and daughter, Victoria, along with him for the special two-day adventure. “The suite at the Omni was amazing,” says Alex. “We had a great view of the bay where I could see my ship.” After some pool time, the crew made their way to the park for a behind-the-scenes tour where Violet’s highlight was operating the game-day camera. “We had great seats,” Alex says. “For only being three, my daughter knows a lot of the players and loved watching the game.” Then the next day was spent relaxing with a gondola cruise through the canals of the Coronado Cays.
“It was a great time. Obviously, I would have loved for Kelly to have been there, too. But aside from that it was really our first time being able to be out and about—and watching the Padres sweep the Dodgers was pretty sweet.”