scratch off winners stories

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.


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.

Scratch off winners stories

Links to Various Sad but True Winners Stories
(All links found below take you to stories found on this website
and each linked page may contain multiple stories)

Originally Posted: Feb 27, 2005
Revised: May 8, 2008
(New links added frequently)

Before you buy that next scratch ticket . Click here

A Dallas Observer Feature Story
My hats off to the Dallas Observer and reporter, Rick Kennedy,
for a fantastic feature story about my life since I decided to keep
an eye on the Texas Lottery. Click here to read.
( Posted on my web site June 12, 2005 and
now includes comments and links )

Told Ya So – Another Dallas Observer Story
About me, Judicial Watch & the cheated winners
Dallas Observer , posted 8/11/05 – Click here

Ex-boyfriend charged with killing $5M lottery winner
Florida lottery winner dies penniless
(Texas) Alleged lottery cheat wins big bucks . A G-Tech Rep
Single-Vehicle Crash Kills $9 Million Winner
Lottery winner gives up fight to keep house
$13 Million Florida Lottery Winner Dies Broke
Stories Posted 5/8/08, Click here

Sad but True & Educational Stories – (18 Stories)
Store clerk is charged with claiming lottery ticket of patron
Women sue Whittaker over 2004 incident
Lottery winners’ good luck can go bad fast
Financial planners: Winning the lottery isn’t always a dream
Catching Up! Posted 3/15/06, Click here

Lottery winner must pay
Lottery winner arrested for theft of over $60K
Lotto winner in machete horror
Lottery winner gets prison term for bankruptcy lies
Lottery winner sues state
British lottery winner lands in prison
Catching Up! Posted 3/15/06, Click here

TX – Lottery Commission Tells Woman $11,000 Ticket Was Misprint
Former lottery winner gets 30-month prison sentence
Famous lottery winner dead after lifetime of troubles
Luck was fickle to lottery winner
Lottery dispute takes bizarre turn
Employee made lottery own jackpot
Is lottery vulnerable to inside tampering?
Uncle Sam wins your lottery winnings
Catching Up! Posted 3/15/06, Click here

Sad but True Winners Stories
– Texas Stories Have Gone World Wide Now –
( FYI – We tried to settle the payment issue
PRIOR to contacting the media )
( Texas ) Left with a $25,000 question – Man lost his winning
ticket, then got it back, now it’s in lottery limbo ( A disgace )
( Texas ) Tale of winning ticket combines faith, hope
( Texas ) What once was lost – lottery ticket – now is found.
Texas Lottery should be clear about jackpots
Instant Millions Can’t Halt Winners’ Grim Slide
State probe, drug arrest trip up Powerball winner
Posted & Revised Dec 8 & 9, 2005 – Click here.
If you want to see all the stories – world wide – click here.

Eight Sad but True Winners Stories
Powerball winner found days after death
Million dollar lottery winning causes family tensions
Lottery shop shortchanges winner bigtime
Ripped-off lottery winner is a Mexican
Lottery winner charged in theft
Lottery winner cries foul
Caller claims to be recent lottery winner
Stop begging, says lottery winner
Posted Nov 27, 2005 – Click here

Seven Sad but True Winners Stories
Lottery Winner Hangs Self 7 Years After Collecting Win
Lottery winner lied at bankruptcy hearing
Lottery Winner Lands in Jail
Lottery Winner Sentenced For Failing To Pay Taxes
Suspect in death of lottery winner pleads not guilty
Lottery winner could face legal action
Lottery Winner’s Business Target of Complaints
Posted Oct 8, 2005 – Click here to read all stories

(AZ) Store clerk accused of stealing $1M lottery ticket
& Man sues lottery over $5 million jackpot
Posted August 19, 2005 – Click here.

(TX) Lottery Commission’s personnel policies questioned (AP Wire)
They Won The Jackpot. Lottery money can bring mixed blessings
Posted August 4, 2005 – Click here

Florida Lottery will not honor misprint scratch-off jackpot ticket
This is very, very WRONG. Posted 7/31/05 – Click here.

Lotto Winner Murdered & Indiana Goes to Computerized Draws (Both sad)
Search continues for couple accused of killing lottery winner.
(Indiana) Lottery not chancing integrity . Balls inside a cage were
fun to watch, but computer system maximizes reliability
( Sorry, but we don’t agree with the Indiana Lottery’s “excuses”
for switching to computerized draws. We KNOW why they want
computerized draws – so they can control the outcome of the draws. )
Posted July 29, 2005 – Click here.

Four Interesting Stories
San Antonio – Mother loses daughter over lotto win
Former Lottery Winner In Trouble With The Law
Two plead guilty in lottery ticket scheme
Cause of lottery glitch remains a mystery
Posted June 12, 2005, Click here

Three Interesting Stories
1) Terminal Says $3 Million Scratch Ticket
“Not A Winner” . The Terminals Favorite Words!
2) Wetzel prosecutor will refuse to collect on lottery bad
checks . (Good For Him)
3) Pair will testify against ex-lottery official . (Good For Them)
Posted June 1, 2005, Click here

A Texas Player Shares Her Winning Experience
This is an experience that I hope all of you read and learn from.
(Posted May 27, 2005) Click here.

More Lottery Stories
Store Manager Steals Winning Ticket .
Woman Stiffed By Store Manager Collects .
Whitaker Can’t Withdraw Plea .
Chances Are Lottery Is A Waste of Your Money .
Click Here
(Posted May 25, 2005)

Winners Stories And A Call For Texas Players To Take Action
Stories Include
Attention Texas Lottery Players .
Computer Glitch Caught in California – Affected Repeat Numbers Drawn .
Super Model Sues Mayor, Bank and Step Dad .
Lottery Dispute Goes to Court . Clerk Claims Computer Glitch .
$37.5 million winner taken into custody on federal drug and gun charges .
Click here
(Posted May 13, 2005)

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Story as it appeared in the May 2005 edition
of Maxim Magazine is now online. (5/22/05)
Winners talk! Click here to read it.

One very sad winners story .
Two really cute editorials .
About NY and CA (Mega Millions states)
1) Lottery millionaire Zell convicted in fatal crash.
2) Making it harder to win may be best for all involved.
3) Don’t save your coins for Mega Millions lottery just yet.
State lawmakers question whether CA Lottery Commission
has authority to join multistate game.
4) I know how the state can fund education reform,
fix the Big Dig, pay for universal health care and even
have enough left over to cover Charlie Lincoln’s retirement.
5) Major Changes in NY Gambling Possible
Click here.
(Posted March 27, 2005)

Students From San Antonio College Explain
175 Million-to-One Mega Millions Odds. WOW – what analogies!
Also included .
What would your life be like if you won hundreds of millions of dollars?
Click here.

Four heart wrenching editorials . The truth about the cost
of gambling is in police reports, court records and graveyards.
NY model – Stepfather stole to play lottery. Powerball Winner
Jack Whitaker sued. Efforts to raise revenues can
bring problems . Click here.
(Posted March 2005)

What is problem gambling? Click here.
(Posted March 2005)

Real Life Examples of Gambling Related Crime
and Corruption. Click here.
(Link takes you to another web site. Posted March 2005)

Texas Lottery Denies Cheating Lotto Texas Winners
But excerpts from Commission Meetings refutes the TLC claims
of innocence. The complete story including a winners complaint letter
to the DA. ( Special note to those winners who called inquiring about
the way you were paid – your suspicions. I’ve included a spreadsheet
that includes the rate that was applicable at the time of your win
so you can now figure out if you received your full amount. )
Click here. (Posted Feb 2005)

Sad but True Winners Stores (2), Click here.
And did lottery terminal err or did clerk steal?
(Posted Feb 27, 2005)

Players learn chances of winning scratch tickets
may be zero. Click here. (Posted Feb 2005)

Rich Man, Poor Man.
A big Powerball win cost Jack Whitaker dearly.
Click here. (Posted Jan 2005)

Sad but True Winners Stories (1), Click here .
(Posted Dec 2004)

Read story about a Texas $31 million winner
who committed suicide (1999). Click here.
(Posted Nov 2004)

Inside Information Nets Big Scratch Ticket Win
Click here. (Posted Nov 2004)

More Sad but True Winners Stories (AOL), Click here.
(Posted Nov 2004)

Store Owners and Employees Admit Stealing
$100,000 Powerball Ticket . Don’t let this happen
to you. Click here.
(Posted Nov 2004)

One Winner – One Loser – What a story.
Everyone should read this one. Three other stories
include an interview with a winner, a news story
regarding the Oct 13 Lotto Texas machine malfunction
and the huge sales decline for New York’s in state
Lotto game since joining MM. Click here.
(Posted Oct 2004)

A Lotto Trouble Over Money .
Texas winner faces problems! Click here.
(Posted July 2002)

Lawsuit Filed by Scratch Ticket Players
Click here. (Posted June 2004)

Thank You Dallas Morning News . Their 2005 study of lottery sales
by districts confirms who really plays the games of Texas. Click here.
(Posted Feb 2005)

About that 2005 Texas Lottery Demographics Study.
See what the “real” truth was! A Texas Tech Study. Click here.
(Posted Feb 2005)

Canada Has A Gambling Problem. And so will Texas.
Governments hooked on gambling. Here’s WHY we need to oppose
expanded gambling in Texas and why the TLC turns me OFF.
Click here. (Posted Jan 2005)

Before you buy that next scratch ticket . Click here

Texas Winners Stories . Click here.
(Updated as lotto winners collect winnings.
Mostly Texas winners.)

The Lotto Report
Dawn Nettles
P. O. Box 495033
Garland, Texas 75049-5033
(972) 686-0660
(972) 681-1048 Fax

Links to lots of lottery winners stories. Site loads fast and there’s no advertising. ]]>