Most Charitable Lotto Winners: Has Anyone Ever Donated Their Entire Lottery Winnings to Charity?

Heart money

Heart moneyWinning the lottery is a dream for most people, not least because of the life-changing effects of seeing huge sums of money hit their bank accounts. It is a nice thing for people to be able to benefit from, especially if they have led tough lives up until that point. The influx of money has led some people to make some crazy decisions, becoming notorious for their behaviour rather than the manner in which they used their new-found wealth for good. One such example is Michael Carroll, the so-called ‘Lottery Lout’, who ended up losing all of his money by frittering it away.

For some, winning the lottery isn’t about improving their own lives. Instead, it is seen as an opportunity to do something in order to help those less fortunate. They use their money for the likes of setting up charitable foundations or giving part of their money away to already established charities. For those people, it isn’t about buying fast cars or new homes, but is instead about ensuring that others can see their lives improved immeasurably. The question is, has anyone ever decided to give away every penny that they won in order to improve the lives of strangers?

Looking at Some Examples

Man generously throwing money

Whilst it is easy to take a UK-centric view of lottery winnings, we must remember that other lotteries around the world have incredibly impressive jackpot amounts that people can win if they get lucky and their numbers come up. We should also point out that we’re not talking about people who have won £10 on the lottery and chosen to give that away to a charity.

Instead, we’re focused on the people who have won millions and decided that they’d rather see the money go to those that most need it, rather than keeping the entire amount that they’ve won for themselves.

The Canadian Man Who Gave It All Away in His Wife’s Memory

When Tom Crist chose to play the Lotto Max in May of 2013, he did so aware of the fact that he could potentially win C$40 million. That was what he hit in the 6/49 lottery that was offered to Canadians should their numbers come in, which is exactly what happened to Crist. What did he do with his money? Buy a Lamborghini or go to live in the Seychelles? No, he waited until December of that year to head to the lottery headquarters in order to pick up his winnings, after which he vowed that he would give it all away in memory of his recently deceased wife.

To demonstrate how quiet he was about winning such a vast sum of money, even his own daughter found out about his windfall via Facebook. He started a charitable foundation in his own name and made his first donation to the cancer centre in Calgary in honour of his wife, who had died from it. The rest of the money was going to be sent to similarly charitable locations, predominantly picked by his family. The likes of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Ronald McDonald House were some of the organisations that benefited from Crist’s generosity.

The Couple Who Have Given Away More Than Half of Their Winnings

Frances Connolly and her husband, Patrick, couldn’t believe their luck in 2019. Having bought a EuroMillions ticket, they were astonished to discover that they had won the £114.9 million jackpot. Rather than jumping online in order to find the perfect holiday destination, Frances decided to draw up a list of the 50 friends and family members who she wanted to help thanks to their new wealth. She said, “I didn’t set out to give half away, that’s just what happened. We sat down and looked at the list and kind of figured out what we thought would make a difference in people’s lives.”

It wasn’t just friends and family who benefited from their generosity, with the pair deciding to set up a couple of charities. On top of that, they also moved to help the most vulnerable and in-need people in their local area. Patients who have had to stay in the local hospital over Christmas will have been sent toiletries and gifts from the husband and wife, resulting in hundreds of people writing them thank you cards. Patrick had once joked that if they ever won the lottery, he’d need to take Frances’ phone off her to stop her giving all the money away. How prophetic that joke turned out to be.

The Winner Who Realised Giving It Away Was the Easiest Option

There are plenty of lottery winners out there who will tell you that it is a cautionary tale. It might seem like a dream, but it can quickly turn into a nightmare, with complete strangers getting in touch with begging letters and members of your own family treating you like you’re nothing more than a human cash machine. It was with this in mind that a winner of one of the big prizes on the Powerball in South Carolina at the start of 2023 figured that the best thing to do would be to just give it all away, avoiding any of the problems that come with winning a large sum.

Admittedly, he didn’t win the main prize of $416 million, but he still ended up receiving $150,000, which is nothing to be sniffed at. In the United States of America, gambling winnings are not tax free like they are in the United Kingdom. By giving all of his winnings away to charity, the lucky punter also managed to avoid having to pay any tax on the money that he’d won. The store that he bought the ticket from also received a windfall, getting a payout of $1,500 from the lottery for selling the winning numbers. It is the charities that he chose that benefitted the most, however.

Barbara Wragg, Who Gave Away Millions

On the 10th of January 2000, Barbara Wragg and her husband, Ray, won £7.6 million on the National Lottery. Not only did it change their lives overnight, it also allowed them to become minor celebrities after they chose to go public about their win. They bought a new car and did what they could to secure their children’s futures, but they didn’t stop there. Instead, they began to give most of their money away, becoming known as the ‘Lotto Angels’ in their native Sheffield. They went on to help a lot of good causes and make plenty of people happy thanks to their generosity.

After Barbara’s passing, Ray said, “You get your lottery winners coming on TV now and they say they are going to do this and that and then they vanish. But with Barbara it was like at Christmas when you give a present and see the expression on people’s faces – she liked to see people’s reactions when we gave them the money. Afterwards, lots of people came up to us in the street to shake our hands and to give us a rub for luck. They said thank you for everything you did for Sheffield and the hospitals. I am very proud what we have done.” They enjoyed themselves, but they helped others too. The perfect combination.

A Church Gets Lucky

It isn’t unusual for religious people to pray for a strike of good fortune. Even so, the True North Community Church in Port Jefferson, New York, will have been astonished to find out just how lucky it was about to get. When an anonymous parishioner played the Ba Da Bling scratch card, he did so with the knowledge that he might end up winning $3 million. Perhaps he was unsure what to do with it when he actually won, only to hear his pastor, Bert Crabbe, inform his congregation that the church might be in trouble ‘unless God drops a couple of million on us’.

The anonymous winner called his Pastor and said, “We need to talk.” Usually when that happens it’s bad luck, but in the case of the True North Community Church, the opposite was true. Due to the way the lottery works in America, winners can choose to either take the full amount over a period of years or a lower amount in one lump sum. Because the winner chose the latter, it meant that the church received $100,000 a year for 20 years, allowing it to do all sorts of great things for others. The first thing the church did was give money to Love 146, a charity that works to abolish human trafficking.

Canadian Couple Whose Generosity Was Abused by Others

In July 2010, Allen Large and his wife Violet saw their numbers come in for the 6/49 Lotto in Canada. As a result, they were on the receiving end of C$11.2 million, which the promptly decided to give most of to friends, family members and charities. The Truro couple gave away almost all of their fortune, with local churches and volunteer groups also being on the receiving end of what they had won. The problem was that others decided to abuse that generosity, using their names in scam emails that were sent around, with the scam still going on more than two years later.

Violet Large died in July of 2011, but two years on from that her husband was angry that his wife’s name was being used to try to con others out of money. The email purported to be from the Larges, saying that the recipient had been chosen to receive part of their fortune. It requests the other person’s bank details, often asking for a ‘processing fee’ to be paid in order for the funds to be transferred. Obviously it was nothing to do with Violet and Allen Large, whose generosity in giving away the vast majority of their fortune was overshadowed by the criminals using their names.

£161 Million Winners Set Up Charitable Trust

In 2011, Colin Weir won an eye-watering sum of £161 million, making them Europe’s second-largest EuroMillions winners at the time. Weir had worked as a camera person for STV, the Scottish broadcaster, whilst his wife was a psychiatric nurse. After finding a wealth of different investments for his money, including luxury properties, sporting investments and cars, the couple decided to set up the Weir Charitable Trust, which was aimed at helping the more needy around the local area. As with the Larges, the trust was the target of a scam and used in an email scheme.

Colin and Christine got divorced in 2018, with Colin dying from sepsis and acute kidney injury in 2019. At that point, the remained of his wealth was passed down to his two children. They have continued the Trust, with its stated aim today being to “support Scottish-based community groups and small charities to provide services across Scotland to help the Scottish community.” The likes of local theatre groups and community cricket teams have already benefitted from the work of the Trust, which proves that such generosity of lottery winners doesn’t need to end after their deaths.

Author: Willie Rodriguez