While many 2020 plans were put on hold as the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic, some people still had some luck with massive lottery wins throughout the year.
In 2020, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) paid out more than $691 million in prizes, ranging from massive jackpot Lotto Max and 6/49 wins, to smaller Scratch & Win prizes.
To close off the year, the BCLC has released their list of top 10 “feel-good” lottery stories, where winners committed their winnings to giving back.
Ronald “Ron” Cumiskey from Aldergrove, B.C., initially underestimated his massive $24,369,459 Lotto 6/49 jackpot win.
He was about to go to bed when he remembered at the last minute he hadn’t checked his lottery ticket from the May 27 draw.
“I thought I had won $5 million...what I didn’t realize was $5 million is an estimation for the next draw,” Cumiskey said. “I checked it two, three, four times before it finally sank in.”
At the winner’s ceremony, Cumiskey wore a t-shirt to represent his grandson who died from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a type of brain tumour.
“It was devastating to the whole family,” he said. “Everyone takes the pain in different ways.”
“I must say I’m very glad my daughter — I never thought she’d get pregnant again after that but she did and it was a complete shock to me, because it’s extremely hard for every parent who loses a child.”
Cumiskey said he wanted to use his prize money to support the B.C. Children’s Hospital that provided support to his family during that difficult time.
“My daughter, her husband and the six-month old other son were able to stay there, no cost,” he said.
Baljit Singh Gill from Surrey, B.C., won $2 million in the BC/49 draw on Jan. 25, allowing him to help make his daughter’s wedding dream come true.
“I saw the 2, and all the zeros, and I called the clerk over to check and make sure,” Gill said, revealing that he couldn’t stop shaking when he discovered he had won.
Gill is a Fleetwood truck driver who immigrated to Canada from India in 1985 and has been playing the lottery for several years.
Denise Skinner from Delta, B.C., won $250,000 in the Daily Grand draw on Nov. 12 and said she was planning to use the money to buy gifts for a local family.
“I’ll be shopping for a little family in Delta this Christmas for sure,” Skinner said. “It’s been a strange year for all of us, and I want to try and find that silver lining under a dark cloud, and I just hope my family can help a local family.”
She also said she would be using the money to help her children pay for their post-secondary education. Skinner was working from home when she found out about her big win and it was her daughter who heard her scream with excitement.
“My daughter came running downstairs after I screamed, and she thought I had only won $250,” she said. “I told her ‘check again!’ And that’s when I nearly had a heart attack.”
In July, David Gurney won $100,000 on a Bingo Grand Scratch & Win ticket.
The Richmond, B.C., resident initially thought he had only won $40 when he checked the ticket at a local gas station.
Gurney said he wanted to donate some of his winnings to charity, in addition to celebrating with a bottle of champagne.
Christyna Whieldon was indulging her children in some sweet treats when she tried her luck with a Lotto 6/49 Quick Pick ticket, going on to win $1 million in the Oct. 17 draw.
Whieldon immediate called her husband and mother when she discovered she won.
“My mom screamed and said she has never known a lottery winner before,” she said. “My husband just kept saying, ‘No way! There is no way!’”
Whieldon said she has plans to support more local businesses with prize money, in addition to paying off her mortgage.
“I live and work in an amazing community,” the Armstrong, B.C. resident said.
A lighthouse keeper from Port Hardy, B.C., Ivan Dubinsky, won the $1 million Guaranteed Prize in the Nov. 27 Lotto 6/49 draw.
He has worked as lighthouse keeper for more than 20 years and buys his lottery tickets online, because it’s difficult for him to actually get to a store for his purchase, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s difficult to buy lottery tickets when you’re at the lighthouse all the time,” Dubinsky said. “You have to be granted leave, and there’s not too many lighthouse keepers available these days.”
He said he would start to wind down his career as a lighthouse keeper after his win, but will also support his siblings.
“I’ll slowly begin the retirement process, give some of my winnings to my brothers and sisters, and possibly buy a home in the north part of Vancouver Island,” Dubinsky said. “Though I may still want to be a relief lighthouse keeper.”
Best friends of 70 years, Alan Barker and Kathleen Cook, have been kept apart for months but still hope to celebrate their life-changing $2 million win from the BC/49 draw on Mar. 4.
Barker, from Courtenay, B.C., revealed plans to donate some of the money to the local hospital for new equipment, in addition to possibly moving to a “posher” assisted living facility.
Cook, who lives in Langley, B.C., plans to help her family members make their lives “easier and more convenient.”
The pair met in England in the 1950s and ended up moving to Canada with their spouses. They have been playing the lottery together as a pair for some time.
“I was looking at the screen and was dumbstruck,” Barker said. “Even while I was walking out someone asked if it was the big winner. I still can’t believe it.”
“I was surprised when Alan told me the winning ticket was in his hands, full of wonder and disbelief,” Cook said. “It took a long time to register.”
Jared Huggan from Vancouver Island, B.C., won $75,000 after purchasing a BC/49 ticket at a Walmart in Nanaimo, while shopping with his husband Ron.
“I realized I matched 5/6 numbers,” Huggan said, according to Victoria News. “I wanted to tell Ron right away, but he was visiting with the neighbours so I went over to share the news.”
Huggan said part of his plan for the winnings was to buy an electric bike for Ron.
Eleanor Kendall from New Westminster, B.C., won a $675,000 Set for Life top prize in January and instantly knew she wanted to put some of the money into her family’s endowment fund at a Lower Mainland university.
“My husband and I are big supporters of programs that encourage women to go into the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and early childhood development,” Kendall said. “We already have an endowment in our name so we will use some of the money to top it up.”
She also revealed she wants to use some of her prize money to help her family.
“I firmly believe we all need some help sometimes,” Kendall said. “No one helped me but we have to help the kids — they are the future.”
Coquitlam, B.C., resident Heewon (Theresa) Choi, Melanie Nolan and two other co-workers who work at the Royal Columbia Hospital in New Westminster won $6 million in the Oct. 31 Lotto 6/49 draw.
Choi scanned the ticket on her BCLC Lotto! App to see if the four co-workers won any money.
“I thought it was $6,000 when she showed it to me,” Nolan revealed.
“When the other two group members started their shift, Melanie and I told them,” Choi said. “They thought it was a joke!”
Once the players realized they were $6 million lottery winners they told their families the good news. Nolan’s partner responded with a text message saying, “It’s not April Fools!”
The group indicated they want to share a nice meal together and Nolan plans to donate some of her money to the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation.