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8 Lottery Winner Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Buy a Ticket

Lottery Winners Used Their Jackpot to Change Their Lives and Communities

If you’ve read the stories about lottery curse victims, you might worry that buying a lottery ticket isn’t worth it. Who wants to risk winning a Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot when there is a chance that your windfall will end up in suicide, murder, or financial ruin?

Luckily, while there are many people who don’t know how to handle a sudden windfall, there are even more lottery winners who use their winnings to make a positive difference in their lives and their communities. Here are seven lottery success stories that will inspire you to buy a ticket.

1. A Powerball Jackpot Lets a Cowboy Keep Ranching

Things were looking bad for 23-year-old Neal Wanless back in 2009. The down-on-his-luck cowboy was behind on his property taxes, couldn’t make basic repairs around the ranch, and was trying to sell scrap metal for a little bit of extra cash. He was one of the poorest ranchers in Todd County, South Dakota, which is already one of the least prosperous areas in America.

On a feed run to a local town (prophetically named Winner), Neal decided to take a risk and spend a little of his hard-earned cash on a Powerball ticket. He spent $5 on five plays and selected numbers from family members’ birth dates.

That risk paid off when he won one of the biggest Powerball jackpots in history. After taxes, the lump-sum payment ended up being about $88.5 million.

Neal Wanless said he was going to continue to work the ranch, but he’d put also put part of the money to work helping others in his community. “That’s just the way it is in this part of the state, people help people, we know one another,” said Timothy Grablander, mayor of the town where Wanless’ ranch is located.

2. A Single Mother of Five Wins a Life-Changing Powerball Jackpot

When Cynthia P. Stafford’s brother was killed by a drunk driver, she took in his five children, raising them as a single mother. As if that weren’t enough, she also helped her father make ends meet.

In January of 2007, money was tight. She was living with her large family in a thousand-square-foot house, struggling to pay the bills and dreaming of winning the lottery. Not just any lottery, either: a $112 million jackpot. And that’s exactly what she did.

In 2004, the number, “$112 million,” popped into Stafford’s head. She started focusing on winning that exact amount.

She used several methods to attract luck including sleeping with the number on a note under her pillow, meditating on winning a $112 million jackpot, and visualizing how it would feel once she won.

In an amazing stroke of luck, three years later, Stafford walked away with the exact jackpot she had dreamed of winning.

Cynthia Stafford credits the law of attraction and prayer for her prize, which let her tackle her family’s financial problems and even start a film company so that she could follow her dream career.

If you’re wondering how she did it, Stafford bought tickets just a couple of times a month, and she picked whichever numbers came into her head at the moment. She still buys lottery tickets every week, in the hope of becoming one of the rare multiple-jackpot winners.

3. Mega Millions Winners Honor Their Parents With a Splash Park

When John and Linda Kutey’s office lottery pool won one of Mega Millions’ biggest jackpots, the Kuteys knew that they wanted to pay respect to their parents by doing something for their community. So they went to the Green Island village hall and asked how they could help.

The answer was to help renovate a local park, replacing an older wading pool with a modern spray park.

The spray park gives local children a place to cool off in the summer, and it didn’t cost the taxpayers a cent. The Kuteys not only donated the new equipment but also everything needed to install it.

The Kuteys were also able to make some personal improvements with the lottery money. John Kutey was able to leave his job working for New York State Homes and he and his wife moved to a beautiful house in Florida where they could show off Linda’s Disney collection.

Even though the after-tax take-home value of the prize was “only” $19 million, the Kutey’s were able to help themselves and the people around them.

4. Family of Jackpot Winners Joins Together to Improve Their City

Pearlie Mae Smith raised her seven children to be aware of how important it is to give back to their community, and those children grew up volunteering in soup kitchens and working in community gardens.

So when the family won a $429 million Powerball jackpot, it was clear to them that they wanted to use this windfall to do even more good for the people around them who weren’t so lucky.

Although the huge lottery jackpot was split evenly among the eight family members, not all of them quit their jobs. One daughter, for example, decided to continue with her work mentoring other women, and now had the cash to help fund the program.

The family started the Smith Family Foundation to provide funding for grassroots organizations who were working to improve the lives of people in their hometown of Trenton, New Jersey. The foundation’s priorities include education, neighborhood development, Christian education, and supporting youth and families in the Trenton area.

5. School Teacher Uses Jackpot Money to Bring Joy to Children

Les Robins was a high school teacher who thought it was a shame that kids today don’t grow up doing the kinds of activities he himself had enjoyed as a child: going to camp, swimming, playing sports, and exploring the outdoors.

So when he won a $111 million Powerball jackpot, Robins decided to use the funds to create his own camp to bring joy to kids.

Robins founded Camp Winnegator on 226 acres that he bought with his lottery money, and it operated for over a decade. It provided children a low-cost place to go in the summer where they could horseback ride, craft, swim, and play on the lake. Best of all, the kids had a chance to disconnect from video games and cell phones and get in touch with nature and their real-life friends.

6. Florida Lottery Winner Leaves a Legacy of Good Works Behind

Sheelah Ryan won $52 million in the Florida State Lottery, which at the time was the biggest individual lottery jackpot ever won. She then spent the last years of her life giving it away.

As many lottery winners have said, she felt that she had won the money for a reason, and that reason was to help others. She created a charitable group to help organizations that provide aid for the underprivileged.

Ryan only had six years to enjoy her winnings before dying of cancer, but The Ryan Foundation outlasted her, continuing to give grants to organizations that built low-cost housing, helped children who in need of operations they couldn’t afford, and aided senior citizens, especially in her home of Seminole County, Florida.

7. Powerball Winners Use Their Jackpot to Fight the Disease That Killed Their Granddaughter

When Paul and Sue Rosenau won $181.2 million from a Powerball drawing in 2008, they knew exactly what they wanted to do with the money. See, they had bought their winning ticket five years to the day that their granddaughter, Makayla, died of a rare and incurable disease.

Krabbe Disease affects only one out of about 100,000 newborns, so it doesn’t receive the funding that many more common diseases do. It’s a devastating, degenerative illness that attacks the lining of the nerves and usually results in death within the first two years.

Paul and Sue Rosenau founded The Legacy of Angels to increase awareness of the disease and to help fund promising research into treatment and cures. Sue and Paul Rosenau serve on the foundation’s board of directors, hoping to save other families from the pain they experienced.

8. Man Donates Lottery Jackpot to Fight Disease That Killed His Wife

Most people who win the lottery make plans to quit their job, travel the world, or buy a new house or car. But when Tom Crist won $40 million in a Canadian lottery, he had a very different idea. He donated every single dollar to fight the disease that killed his wife.  

Two years earlier, Tom had lost his wife of 44 years, Jan, to cancer. He was retired, had money saved up, and his adult children were doing well. So he decided not to keep any of it for himself at all.

He donated the entire lump sum (and in Canada, lottery winnings aren’t taxed!) to a cancer charity in Calgary. His kids totally supported the idea.

Conclusion

As you can see, many lottery winners are able to do a lot of good with their prizes, both for themselves and for the people around them. There’s no reason why a jackpot has to make you the target of a curse, in fact, in some states you can remain anonymous.

Remember, though, that while the lottery curse is no good reason to avoid picking up a ticket, the risk of losing your money might well be. Buying lottery tickets should only be done for fun and to have a dream of winning, not as a serious way to make money or save for retirement. If you can’t afford to lose the money you are spending on your tickets, it’s best not to play.

Eight heart-warming and inspirational lottery success stories of jackpot winners who changed their lives and the lives of people in their community.

The Biggest Lottery Winners: Where are They Now? [Updated Oct 2019]

Most of us imagine that all lottery winners live happily ever after, but that simply isn’t the reality for a lot of them. Even with hundreds of millions at their disposal, the biggest jackpot winners are still regular people. And that means they still have their own problems to deal with like the rest of us.

For many of these people, winning the lottery wasn’t the golden ticket they’d imagined it to be. Some may have had better luck than others, but for the most part, these stories prove that having loads of money doesn’t exempt you from life’s challenges.

In this mega list of lottery winners, we’ve compiled the record-breaking jackpots from the most popular lotteries across the world. Find out who the biggest winners are, and what each one has been up to since claiming their prize.

Powerball

Mega Millions

Here are the record-breaking jackpots from the biggest lotteries around the world:

Powerball USA
Jackpot Amount Date of Drawing Winner(s) Location
1. $1.58 Billion January 13, 2016 John and Lisa Robinson;
Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt;
Marvin and Mae Acosta
Tennessee;
Florida;
California
2. $768.4 Million March 27, 2019 Manuel Franco Wisconsin
3. $758.7 Million August 27, 2017 Mavis Wanczyk Massachusetts
4. $687.8 Million October 27, 2018 Robert Bailey
Lerynne West
New York;
Iowa
5. $590.5 Million May 18, 2013 Gloria McKenzie Florida
Mega Millions
1. $1.53 Billion October 23, 2018 Anonymous winner South Carolina
2. $656 Million March 30, 2012 Merle and Patrica Butler;
A group known as “The Three Amigos”;
Anonymous winner
Illinois;
Maryland;
Kansas
3. $648 Million December 17, 2013 Ira Curry;
Steve Tran
Georgia;
California
4. $543 Million July 24, 2018 Group of 11 coworkers California
5. $536 Million July 8, 2016 Anonymous couple Indiana
EuroMillions
1. €190 Million October 8, 2019 Anonymous winner United Kingdom
2. €190 Million August 10, 2012 Adrian and Gillian Bayford United Kingdom
3. €190 Million October 24, 2014 Anonymous winner Portugal
4. €190 Million October 6, 2017 Anonymous winner Spain
5. €187 Million June 7, 2013 Anonymous winner;
Anonymous winner
Ireland;
Belgium

Top 5 Largest Lottery Jackpots from the USA

Starting at the very top, the five largest jackpots ever won in US lottery history are:

  1. $1.58 billion for the January 13, 2016 Powerball draw. Split between John and Lisa Robinson from Tennessee, Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt from Florida, and Marvin and Mae Acosta from California.
  2. $1.54 billion for the October 23, 2018 Mega Millions draw. Won by an anonymous woman from South Carolina.
  3. $768.4 million for the March 27, 2019 Powerball draw. Won by Manuel Franco from Wisconsin.
  4. $758.7 million for the August 27, 2017 Powerball draw. Won by Mavis Wanczyk from Massachusetts.
  5. $687.8 million for the October 27, 2018 Powerball draw. Split between Robert Bailey from New York, and Lerynne West from Iowa.

Learn more about those wins and what the winners have been up to in the sections below.

Powerball Biggest Lottery Winners

$1.58 Billion Powerball Jackpot Winners

The largest ever lottery jackpot in history, the $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot back in January 13, 2016 was split between three winning ticket-holders.

Two of the winning ticket holders, couple John and Lisa Robinson, and 70-year old Maureen Smith, came forward and claimed their winnings not long after the draw. However, it took the third ticket holders, Mae and Marvin Acosta, over 6 months to come forward and claim their prize.

All three ticket holders opted to go for a lump sum payment and took home $327.8 million each, before taxes.

John and Lisa Robinson ($327.8M Won)

Where are they now?

Since winning the Powerball, John and Lisa Robinson have upgraded to a multi-million dollar home, complete with home theater and a private lake. Other than the noteworthy house, they’ve kept out of the headlines.

Tip on picking winning lottery numbers

On January 13, 2016, couple John and Lisa Robinson won a third of the historic $1.58 billion Powerball jackpot. Like the other two winners, the Robinsons chose to take their winnings as a lump sum, getting $327.8 million before taxes.

Despite their newfound wealth, the couple planned to keep their modest Munford, Tennessee home. John said, “These big fancy houses are nice, but you gotta clean ‘em.” Lisa, meanwhile, said that she wanted to continue working.

2 years after their big win, the Robinsons now live in a $6.2 million 10-bedroom home. Sitting on a 320-acre lot, their luxury home comes with a private lake and some of the best views of Tennessee. More than that, it has eight bathrooms and even a well-equipped home theater. So much for staying in a modest home!

Lisa went back to work the day after they won, but wasn’t treated well. It’s not a surprise then that the Robinsons keep to themselves and ask for privacy. Who could blame them? They’re probably tired of all the strangers and “long lost relatives” asking for a handout!

Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt (327.8M Won)

Where are they now?

Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt still buy lottery tickets. Other than a few luxury buys, the couple have kept up their old routines.

Unlike the Robinsons, Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt have continued living a modest lifestyle after their Powerball win. Save for a $90,000 Tesla and a new SUV, the couple haven’t splurged with their winnings. They still live in their $300,000 home in Florida (Florida is also home to one of the largest state lotteries) and frequent the same shops and restaurants.

They also go about their daily routine as if nothing big had happened. In fact, despite winning a lump sum of $327.8 million (before taxes), the couple still plays the Powerball!

Marvin and Mae Acosta ($327.8M Won)

Where are they now?

The Acostas stayed quiet before claiming their jackpot, and they’ve kept up the silence since. Scammers tried to take advantage of their charity plans, so we can only assume the Acostas have opted to keep their philanthropy private.

Marvin and Mae Acosta, the final third of 2016’s $1.58 billion Powerball jackpot winners, have stayed quiet since their big win. It shouldn’t be a surprise: the pair laid low for over 6 months before claiming their prize. The Acostas didn’t want any publicity then, and nothing has changed after 2 years!

Today, the Acostas are still keeping a low profile. Their plan to stay out of the public eye seems to be the right call: once they shared their plans to create a charity, scammers went to work. People began receiving obvious scam letters claiming to be from the Acostas. There was even a website called AcostaFoundation that ripped off the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website!

$768.4 Million Powerball Jackpot Winner, Manuel Franco ($326M Won)

Where are they now?

There has been no official word about Manuel Franco since he came forward to claim his prize.

Manuel Franco, a resident of Milwaukee, came forward last April 23, 2019 to claim the third-largest jackpot in lottery history. He opted for the single lump sum of $477 million, and will take home about $326 million after taxes. He purchased his ticket from the Speedway store in New Berlin, Wisconsin.

Franco won the March 27, 2019 drawing with the numbers 16, 20, 37, 44, and 62, with Powerball number 12.

$758.7 Million Powerball Jackpot Winner, Mavis Wanczyk ($336M Won)

Where are they now?

Mavis Wanczyk quit her job and retreated from the public eye. When she claimed her prize, Wanczyk said she wanted to be alone and figure out what to do next – and it looks like she did just that.

Mavis Wanczyk was the sole winner of the August 27, 2017 draw of the US Powerball. With nobody to split the prize with, the 50-something mom from Massachusetts took home a lump sum of $336,350,655 after taxes.

Not long after, Mavis quit her job at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield. However, her current whereabouts and her status are both unknown. And that’s actually part of her plan!

Post-win, Mavis said that she’d rather be alone, hide in her bed, and think about what she wanted to do next. Judging by the lack of any news about her, it looks like she got her wish!

Scammers did try to use Mavis’ name, but authorities and the media quickly caught on.

$687.8 Million Powerball Jackpot Winners

Robert Bailey ($343.8M Won)

Where are they now?

Robert Bailey seems to have stuck to his plan to be smart about protecting his newfound wealth. There has been very little news about his current status, and in the world of lottery winners, that’s usually a good sign.

Robert Bailey from New York won half of the $687.8 million jackpot for Powerball’s October 27, 2018 drawing. He took home about $125 million after federal and state taxes.

After claiming his prize, Bailey revealed in a press conference that he had hired the help of a lawyer and financial adviser to guide him through his new life as a millionaire.

Interestingly, Bailey claimed that the winning combination he used to win the jackpot was one he’d been playing for more than 25 years. He later said that he would still continue playing the same numbers even after his big win.

Lerynne West ($343.8M Won)

Where are they now?

Single mom Lerynne West from Iowa seems to be doing good with her wealth – not just financially, but also in the philanthropic sense.

Lerynne West retired from her job in the insurance industry soon after her win. She later appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show where she pledged to donate $500,000 to the Travis Mills Foundation.

With the help of her family and a newly hired wealth manager, West set up the Callum Foundation in honor of her grandson. The charitable foundation provides financial support to organizations that work towards improving children’s education, health, animal welfare, and veteran affairs.

$590.5 Million Powerball Jackpot Winner, Gloria MacKenzie ($278M Won)

Where are they now?

Gloria McKenzie replaced her rundown apartment with a seaside mansion and donated $2 million for a Maine high school’s repairs.

In May 2013, Gloria MacKenzie, an 84-year-old from Zephyrhills, Florida hit the $590.5 million jackpot with nobody else to split the prize. As the sole winner, MacKenzie took home a sizable $278 million after taxes.

After her big win, MacKenzie bought a seaside mansion worth $1.2 million in Jacksonville, Florida – a big upgrade from her run-down $30,000 rental apartment. MacKenzie also donated a cool $2 million to a Maine high school that needed new roofing. The generous grandmother also pledged to share her winnings with her son, Scott.

How is the Powerball winner is doing now? It’s hard to tell: her family has requested for privacy, and there has been no news since.

$587.5 Million Powerball Jackpot Winners

Two winners shared the pot when their tickets won on November 28, 2012: couple Cindy and Mark Hill of Missouri, and a then 37-year old Matthew Good of Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Cindy and Mark Hill ($136.5M Won)

Where are they now?

Cindy and Mark Hill have maintained their modest lifestyles, spending most of their money funding civic projects and charity work in their Missouri hometown.

In November 2012, Cindy and Mark Hill won half of the $587.5 million Powerball jackpot. Like Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt, the Hills have continued living modestly since their win.

For instance, Mark still gets his morning coffee at the local convenience store. He’s also chosen a modest pickup truck over the Camaro sports car he had been eyeing.

But that doesn’t mean the Hills haven’t been using their winnings. Before hitting the Powerball jackpot, the Hills had already donated to civic projects in their hometown of Camden Point, Missouri. Now, with millions of Powerball winnings in the bank, the Hills’ generosity seems to have multiplied by tenfold!

Camden Point has the couple to thank for their new fire station and a new ball field. The Hills also gave more than $50,000 so the town could buy a site for building a new sewage treatment plant. Finally, the Hills also pledged a large amount to North Platte High School’s scholarship fund.

It isn’t clear what the Hills have been up to since then. But given their philanthropic ways, it’s a good bet that they’ve put that $136.5 million prize to good use!

$564.1 Million Powerball Jackpot Winners

On February 11, 2015, it was another case of three winners splitting half of a billion dollars from the Powerball jackot. One of the winners was an anonymous player from Puerto Rico, while the second winning ticket was cashed in by an Andrew Weber, who was claiming it on behalf of a trust in Texas. The third one was single mom Marie Holmes of North Carolina.

Marie Holmes ($188M Won)

Where are they now?

Marie Holmes has used most of her winnings on supporting the people she cares about.

Marie Holmes won one third of the $564.1 million Powerball jackpot back in February 11, 2015. She went with the lump sum option and took home about $127 million before taxes.

Marie used to work at supermarkets and fast food joints to support her children, one of which has cerebral palsy, before her lucky win. She planned on using the money to further support her kids – plus, she also wanted to finish college, support charities, and even buy her mom a new house.

She also donated 10% of her winnings to Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church. After taxes, the charitable contribution amounted to about $1.5 million, which is the largest ever made to a church from a lottery win.

That however, didn’t stop the pastor of the church from suing Marie Holmes for more money – claiming that the lottery winner pledged to donate up to $10 million. Marie Holmes responded by saying that she would honor this agreement.

$487 Million Powerball Jackpot Winners, Anonymous Family from New Hampshire ($256M Won)

For the July 30, 2016 drawing, a family from New Hampshire won the $487,000,000 Powerball jackpot. They opted to go for the $341.7 million cash option, which allowed them to take home $256.3 million after taxes. The family set up a trust so their lawyers could claim the prize for them while they remain anonymous.

The $448.4 Million Powerball Jackpot Winners, Ocean’s 16 ($149M Won)

On August 27, 2013, three ticket holders won the $448,000,000 Powerball jackpot. The first two were Paul White, a Minnesota engineer, and South Brunswick resident Mario Scarnici.

The third, and most notable ticket holder was a group who called themselves Ocean’s 16, as all 16 of them were victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Believe it or not, some of the biggest lottery winners managed to live a modest life despite their new financial status. Here’s what they’ve been up to since their big wins! ]]>