Do you ever dream about what you'd do if you won the lottery? I do...a LOT. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and I love my life, but I don't love it enough to turn down a Powerball lottery jackpot! I would buy a house, buy a car, give some to family and friends, and just make sure those I love were taken care of.
It's easy to think selfishly when you come in to that amount of money, but for Lerynne West, who recently won $343.9 million, she knew that she had to make everyone else around her better before she could truly enjoy the winnings herself.
The story of how West won the lottery is actually pretty crazy...she almost lost the winning ticket!
"[It] started out like most other days, only it was kind of special for me because I had bought my first home," she said at a press conference. "I bought a home in Redfield, Iowa, and I was moving that day. Around noon-ish, the movers had left, my son-in-law had left and my sister was coming up to help me pack."
"I got my lottery tickets and we went back out to [my sister's] truck," said West. "I kind of just set those down at the foot in my purse — or so I thought — and didn't think of them again until Sunday morning."
But the tickets didn't end up in her purse, no. They ended up on the floor of her sister's truck! West saw the winning numbers on TV and immediately knew she won the jackpot. The issues was that she didn't actually have the ticket. That was still in the truck.
"I told my sister to get in her truck and get that ticket and get up here right now! And, drive slow," West recalled.
During her lottery press conference, West made it clear that she would be helping others with her winnings.
"I want you to know that as I stand here today I know the responsibility that I have to do good with this money," she said, fighting back tears. "My life has changed forever. I plan to make thoughtful and responsible decisions on giving to my friends, my family and setting up so that my grandchildren will all have a college education."
The 51-year-old Iowa immediately committed to donating $500,000 of her winnings to The Travis Mills Foundation, which helps veterans and their families through "long-term programs that help these heroic men and women overcome physical obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation." West's father was a veteran of the Vietnam war, so she felt that hit was her duty to give back.
West made the announcement on Ellen.
“It’s very important to me that we never forget the sacrifices soldiers and their family members make for our country,” West told Ellen DeGeneres.
In addition to her generous donation, West also started a foundation in honor of her late grandson, called The Callum Foundation.
"He was born at 24 weeks and he lived for one day," West said.
The foundation will provide grants to “help individuals and strengthen communities by providing funding for key initiatives that will make a measured impact on the lives of those in need.”
From the sounds of it, West knows she's in a position of privilege now, and she's going to do her best to spread the wealth. That being said, she's still going to buy herself a new car. Her Ford Fiesta has over 142,000 miles on it, so it's time for an upgrade.
Thank you, Lerynne, for your extreme generosity. You are the type of person this world needs more of.