Winners of £115m EuroMillions jackpot give more than half away to loved ones and charity
couple who scooped the EuroMillions jackpot have given more than half of their near-£115 million win away to loved ones, charity and those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
Frances and Patrick Connolly had said their first priority was a list of around 50 friends and family to share their good fortune with following their big win on New Year’s Day 2019.
Almost two years on, they have extended their generosity to around £60 million, in what National Lottery operator Camelot said is one of the biggest ever giveaways.
Steering well clear of the stereotypical champagne lifestyle that might be expected of jackpot winners, the pair have set up two charitable foundations: the Kathleen Graham Trust in Northern Ireland, where they are both from, and the PFC Trust in County Durham, where they now live.
Their good deeds have included buying 1,000 presents for patients who will be in hospital on Christmas Day and handing out hundreds of tablets for people who found themselves isolated during the coronavirus lockdown.
Mrs Connolly is originally from Glebe in Co Tyrone and businessman Mr Connolly is from Belfast. They have three daughters and three grandchildren.
Describing the past two years, Mrs Connolly said it had been an “absolutely manic whirlwind, and a total, total joyride from start to finish”.
The low-key couple, who were living in Moira, Co Down, at the time of their online “lucky dip” win, famously told how they had celebrated with a hug and a cup of tea, and vowed they would not become part of the “jet set”.
Mrs Connolly said she had wanted to speak out now at the end of 2020 to help draw attention to the good work being done by so many people for charity during the pandemic.
She said: “People need to be celebrated. Not me, not by any stretch of the imagination me, but by me talking I could draw attention to the fact that, actually, we’re a nation of heroes, here.”
Now living in a five-bedroom bungalow in County Durham – albeit set in five acres of land, with a tennis court and swimming pool – Mrs Connolly, 54, said they had turned down options to move to a castle, as well as a 15-bed stately home which came with a village.
They also chose not to fly first class to New Zealand to visit their daughter, saying they could have helped a young couple pay off a mortgage with the ticket price – instead opting for the comforts of business class.
Mrs Connolly said: “Patrick joked for years that if we ever won the lottery, he’d take away my mobile phone and never let me use the computer again because I’d give away the lot. But I’ve taken real joy from helping other people out.”
She has just recently treated herself to a brand new car – an E-Pace Jaguar – after years of driving second-hand models, and only because she could not find a second-hand electric vehicle.
“We’ve no need for supercars, and I’m so proud that our daughters also drive second-hand cars. It’s something that does the job, and there’s no need to be flash,” she said.
As well as running both charities, Mrs Connolly, retired from a career in education, helps her husband who owns a number of plastics manufacturing factories.
Asked if the 56-year-old was not tempted to retire after the win, Mrs Connolly said: “He wants to keep people working. We’re too young to jack it in yet.”
On their list of family and friends to help were their daughters, Mrs Connolly’s three sisters and two brothers, and Mr Connolly’s three sisters.
They also gave all their nieces and nephews money to buy their own homes.
Away from looking after relatives, the couple both swung into action when the pandemic hit, helping with much-needed supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Mrs Connolly bought new machines for a sewing group in Northern Ireland when she heard they were making PPE for health workers on the Covid-19 frontline.
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Meanwhile Mr Connolly arranged for supplies for a charity that was using 3D printers to make visors.
A chance remark from their gardener about care home residents being discharged from hospitals without fresh clothes and toiletries – because families were not allowed to bring things from home – led Mrs Connolly to order hundreds of pairs of pyjamas and night dresses online, as well as basics like toothpaste and shampoos.
Back home in Northern Ireland during the pandemic, the couple funded hot meal deliveries, £50 thank you vouchers for 150 frontline workers, provided laptops for vulnerable secondary school pupils to distance learn, contributed to a befriending service for those living alone and helped with a teddy bear’s picnic for 400 families.
In a bid to bring Christmas cheer to patients in Hartlepool, the pair have bought and helped wrap gifts for people who will be in hospital over the festive season, and they plan to do the same for Northern Ireland.
They have so far received more than 300 thank you cards from people who have benefited from their generosity, which are kept in a folder at their home.
She said: “There are cards from a 14-year-old and one from an 85-year-old who both received tablets to keep in touch during the lockdown. The cards are each a reminder of the power of the lottery and how it has changed not only our lives – but other people’s too.”
A couple who scooped the EuroMillions jackpot have given more than half of their near-£115 million win away to loved ones, charity and those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
A Stranger Returned His Lost Lottery Tickets. Then He Won $273 Million.
An unemployed New Jersey man won a $273 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot last week after a stranger found and returned the winning ticket that he had left behind on a store counter.
The man, Michael J. Weirsky, told reporters on Thursday that he lost two tickets immediately after he bought them at a QuickChek in Phillipsburg, N.J., on the day before the lottery drawing. He said it was the result of “the typical cellphone deal.”
“I was paying more attention to my cellphone,” he said at a news conference. “I put the tickets down to put my money away, then I did something with my phone and just walked away.”
Mr. Weirsky had spent hours searching for the tickets when he got to his home in Alpha, N.J., near the Pennsylvania border. He was convinced they must have gotten lost there, and it was not until the next day that he decided to ask a clerk at the store if anyone had seen them.
The clerk said someone had turned them in. Then she quizzed him on what tickets he had bought before handing them over, he said. The lottery drawing was that night.
“I was very thankful there was an honest person out there because I thought it was gone,” he said.
But Mr. Weirsky, who said he spends $20 a week on quick-pick lottery tickets, said he did not realize he had the winning ticket until two days later, as a snowstorm swirled outside.
He said a friend of his mother’s called to say she thought a mutual friend of theirs had hit the jackpot. That man bought his ticket at the same store Mr. Weirsky did, and had been standing right in front of him when he did it. Mr. Weirsky called to ask if he had won.
When the man said he had not, Mr. Weirsky decided to check his own tickets using the lottery app on his phone. Then he turned to his mother in shock.
“I put the phone down, I put the ticket down, I sat there for a second — I said to my mother, ‘Hey, that just said I was the jackpot winner,’” he said. “And she’s like, ‘What’s that mean?’”
“I said, ‘I won $273 million,’” he told her. “And she was like, ‘Get the hell out of here.’”
So, for a while, he did.
“I just put the ticket back down, watched TV for about another half-hour. And I just got up and ran upstairs, got dressed and I said, ‘I’ve got to go find out if it’s real,’” he said.
New Jersey Lottery said in a statement that Mr. Weirsky “ventured out in a snowstorm” to scan the ticket at a nearby store. The scan also said he was the winner.
Mr. Weirsky said the lottery win would change everything for him. He had been unemployed for 15 years, he said, living as a stay-at-home husband and moving often for his ex-wife’s job.
Their marriage ended in October. He said he now plans to take his time looking for work. He may start a business, he said, or work part time helping a friend who works as a handyman.
“I am just going to sit back and enjoy it,” said Mr. Weirsky, who could not be reached on Friday night.
He said he planned to take his winnings as a $162.5 million lump sum rather than in installments. His first move will be to buy a new pickup truck, he said, and his next will be to listen to his lawyer.
“After that, I am basically locked into what my lawyer and other people that I got working for me tell me I can do,” he said. “But after they tell me I can go crazy, I am going to take a family vacation and take everybody with us.”
James Carey, the acting executive director of the New Jersey Lottery, said Mr. Weirsky was lucky that someone had returned the winning lottery ticket to the store. (The store was lucky, too: It got a $30,000 prize from New Jersey Lottery for selling the winning ticket.)
When it comes to lottery tickets, possession is nine-tenths of the law, Mr. Carey said. If the person who found Mr. Weirsky’s ticket had claimed ownership, that person would have been declared the winner.
“If you have a winning ticket, we always urge our players: Sign that ticket right away,” Mr. Carey said at the news conference. He added, “If you think about it, it is very difficult to say who owns a lottery ticket short of someone coming in here and saying, ‘I purchased this ticket. It’s mine.’”
Mr. Weirsky said he was thankful for the unidentified good Samaritan who found his tickets on the store counter and decided to turn them in. He said he hoped to find the person.
“I’ve got to find him and thank him,” Mr. Weirsky said, adding, “I am going to give him something, but I am going to keep that private.”
Michael J. Weirsky, an unemployed New Jersey man, won the Mega Millions jackpot after losing his tickets. He was distracted by his cellphone, he said.