Every time a big jackpot rolls around, it seems people always have the same tireless conversations. If a huge pile of cash suddenly fell in your lap tomorrow, what would you spend it on?
Maybe you'd spend it on your family, make sure your kids or parents were set for life, lavish yourself and your loved ones with trips or new cars, or simply pay off all the bills and do some seriously smart investing. With that much money, charitable giving would probably be on your mind, too, and there are plenty of big jackpot winners who have actually done *gasp* really good things with their fortunes.
Colin and Chris Weir: Little acts of kindness add up big
The British couple snagged the highest jackpot in the country's history, 161 million pounds (almost $251 million in U.S. dollars). They are known for using their money to basically fund any good deed they care to, most recently buying a fancy new prosthetic limb for a young teen who had lost his leg to cancer. They have also helped a promising young Scottish tennis player get quality training, funded several athletic improvement projects and paid for the refurbishment of a historic paddle steamer.
Allen and Violet Large: 'What you never had, you never miss'
In 2010, Canadian couple Allen and Violet Large won a $11.2 million Lotto prize. Violet Large was enduring treatments for cancer, and the couple decided to give away most of their fortune to family, friends, hospitals, churches, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and even their local fire department. Their logic was pretty simple: "What you never had, you never miss," Violet said. They truly prove that the real prize of life has nothing to do with money. "That money that we won was nothing," Allen said. "We have each other."
Anonymous donor: A fortune in a church's collection plate
The pastor at a struggling Baltimore parish got a huge surprise when he discovered a winning $30,000 lottery ticket in the collection plate one Sunday in 2011. The ticket, which had already been scratched off to reveal the prize, was left anonymously, and at first, the pastor didn't know why it had been left behind. It was only when he took it to the Maryland Lottery Headquarters that he confirmed the jackpot. The money was used to cover church expenses, and, of course, to do what churches should do best. "We have a lot of people in need,” the pastor said. “Hopefully, we can give some back, especially since this is the way we received it.”
Sheelah Ryan: A lasting legacy of helping others
When Sheelah Ryan won $55 million in 1988, the media storm rolled in, along with unsolicited investments and even marriage proposals. Ryan, however, kept a low profile, and instead started the Ryan Foundation. Her foundation provided countless charitable efforts, everything from paying overdue rent for single mothers and helping stray cats, to supporting low-cost housing projects. Ryan died in 1994, but her foundation lives on to continue charitable work in her name. "I thank God every day that I have the ability to help others, not that I won," Ryan had said of her winnings.
Les Robins: Invest in a passion
In 1993, Les Robins' $111 million payday was the highest Powerball jackpot in the country. Robins, a junior high school teacher, founded Camp Winnegator, a day camp for local Wisconsin children. The camp sits on a 226-acre plot, also bought by Robins. Camp Winnegator is still going strong, a testament that fast fortune can still add up to long-lasting kindness.
Jim Dancy: Every little bit counts
Compared to some other jackpots, Jim Dancy's $10,000 prize from 2009 seems positively paltry. But 10 grand is big money to most, and after talking to friends, the Michigan man decided to donate the whole thing to the Kalamazoo United Way. The president of the KUW called the donation "an act of incredible kindness and generosity," and Dancy said he felt good about his decision. "I know the needs in the community are great right now, so for me it was the right thing to do," he said.
If there's one thing better than people who give of themselves, it's people who give of what's been given to them. Can we make a pact? If any of us win the lottery, let's keep these people in mind. The world will be a better place because of it.
What good causes would you turn to if you were suddenly a mega-millionaire?