The dream of being able to go from rags to riches is one that everyone fantasizes about. Who wouldn’t want to quit their job, move to a mansion, pay off their family’s debts, travel the world and fly in a private jet? For most, though, these dreams are out of reach…unless they’ve got a little luck on their side.
The odds of winning the lottery are low. Dismally low. CBC News reports that you are more likely to be killed by a flesh eating disease or by lightning than you are to win the lottery. In fact, you are three times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident driving 16 kilometres to buy your ticket than you are likely to actually win the jackpot with that ticket.
However, it does happen. The lucky few who win are faced with figuring out how to spend more cash than they have ever been able to fathom having. The way that some winners choose to spend their windfall is unusual, to say the least.
5. Robert Erb: Donated money to causes he believed in….including legalizing pot
British Columbian Robert Erb won $25 million in a Lotto Max draw in November 2012. The seasonal construction worker was already a man with a big heart, and was known around his town of Terrace for helping those in need. His lotto winnings only amplified his giving.
In the first year since his winnings, Erb says he estimates he has spent over $8 million in charitable donations and gifts to individuals. These donations include 10 cars bought for people in need, $300 000 in dental care he purchased for people who otherwise couldn’t afford it, $70 000 to help improve the building of the local community association. He left a $10 000 dollar tip at a restaurant in Chamberlain, Saskatoon, after hearing that the owner’s daughter had been diagnosed with cancer.
Also, Erb is into the herb, as it were. The 61-year-old grandpa is also an avid marijuana smoker, smoking a reported half an ounce a day in 15 joints. He likens this to taking multivitamins as a preventative health measure. Erb donated a cool $1 million to supporting the legalizing of marijuana, and events that support it, like 4/20.
4. The 19-year-old who blew his winnings on a sexy wrestling show
Remember how good you were with finances in your teens? Florida resident Jonathan Vargas was only 19 when he won the $35 million dollar Powerball jackpot in 2008, he says after only his first time playing the lottery. He was working as a construction worker in Gaston when he won the prize. At the time of winning, Vargas said that he would quit his job and buy his mother a house.
However, as time went on, Vargas decided to invest some of his winnings into the entertainment industry by becoming the owner of a television show. Not just any television show. Vargas, in typical teen fashion, married his appreciation of wrestling and beautiful, buxom, scantly dressed women to create Wrestlicious, a mash-up comedy/wrestling television series where women in revealing costumes wrestle in a pink ring.
The show only lasted a season before being taken off air.
When asked if he had spent his money wisely, Vargas said, “I think [so]. Time will tell of course. It certainly has been an awesome learning experience. Best case, we have a huge hit. Worst case, I have a tax write-off.”
3. The man who built a $200 000 water park
When most people think of winning the lottery, they think of spending it on things like luxury cars, houses, pools and yachts. Not many people think, excellent, I’m definitely going to build a water park.
But that is exactly what John Kutey did.
Kutey was one of seven I.T. Specialists from New York State Homes and Community Renewal in Albany who won $319 million dollars with a Mega Millions ticket in 2011. His share was $28.7 million. Kutey and his wife went to their village hall after the win to ask the city how they could give back to their hometown. The result was the demolition of the local wade pool and the installation of the $250 000 spray park in Green Island, New York. Kutey and his wife donated $200 000 towards the water park in the name of their parents. The park opened July 1, 2013.
The Kuteys now live in Florida, but visited the water park for it’s grand opening.
2. The Florida senior who paid $2 million to fix up her old school.
84-year-old Gloria MacKenzie beat odds of 175 million to 1 the day she strolled into a Publix supermarket in Zephyrhills, Florida. A woman allowed her MacKenzie to go ahead of her in line…a decision the good Samaritan must regret now, as MacKenzie won a smooth 590.5 million dollars; the largest Powerball lottery ever to be won. MacKenzie opted for the immediate payout of 278 million after taxes as opposed to having it paid in yearly instalments over 30 years.
Like many lottery winners, MacKenzie upgraded her home. Prior to winning, Mackenzie lived in a squat, shabby home with a tin roof, a place she had moved into from a trailer where she had lived with her husband until his death. The senior upgraded to a 6322 foot square home in a gated community in Jacksonville that cost her $1.2 million. However, she spent more money upgrading her old hometown high school than she did on her new living space.
MacKenzie gave $2 million to Schenck High School in Maine, which she attended and where her daughter now teaches biology, to fix the leaky roof, which had been estimated at $1.8 million worth of repairs.
The superintendent of the school told WCSH6 “I think without that, the school was going to die. East Millinocket was not going to have a school in the long run and I think with this we’ll be able to keep the school going for a while,”
1. The man who gave $40 000 000 away to charity.
Tom Crist from Calgary, Alberta, was golfing in Palm Springs, California in May 2013 when he received a call from Western Canada Lottery informing him he had hit the Lotto Max jackpot. A $40-million dollar jackpot. Crist was now a multimillionaire. So how did he react when he found out he had made it big? He didn’t tell anyone. Crist finished his lunch, and then went back to golfing with his friends.
Crist kept it a secret for seven months from absolutely everyone including his own children, unsure of how to deal with his winnings. Crist wanted to avoid media attention, and was hoping that there would be some way to transfer the funds without the story going public. When he realized there was no way of avoiding the press, he told the media what he intended to do with the money.
Crist had lost his wife of 33 years to cancer in February 2012. In her memory, he wanted to put the money in a family trust fund to dole out to charities that he and his children choose. The first charities that Crist wanted to donate to were the Canadian Cancer Society and Calgary’s Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
How could a man make a decision to give away all of his winnings? To Crist, the logic was simple.
“I’ve been fortunate enough, through my career, 44 years with a company. I did very well for myself.” he told CBC News. “I’ve done enough that I can look after myself, for my kids, so they can get looked after into the future. I don’t really need that money.”
So he chose to give it to people who did.