It’s a sad irony that winning the lottery rarely improves the winner’s life. The extent of the so-called “lottery curse” is well-documented. There’s winners who were murdered by their friends and family to get a piece of action. Or you have winners who simply squandered it all and ended up broke.
As depressing as all that is, it hasn’t always happened. In fact, here are five times the curse was broken. Here’s hoping the latest Powerball winner manages to escape it as well!
Winner donated to her school’s food drive
When 7-year-old Phoebe Brown found a scratch-off lottery ticket worth $100, she knew exactly what to do with the cash: donate it. Phoebe used all of her lottery winnings to donate to her school food drive. And because she started the trend, her second grade class ended up donating more than any other class in her whole elementary school. Out of 1,700 items donated overall, the second graders donated a whopping 541 food items. While it wasn’t a giant windfall, it was still a lottery win, and Phoebe escaped the dreaded curse.
Man kept used car for years after winning
Brad Duke made headlines in 2005 for winning a $220 million jackpot, but he didn’t let it change him.
“I stayed in my house, I drove a used car for up to three years afterwards,” he told NPR’s Rachel Martin in an interview from 2016. “The more I started to fantasize about what I could do with the money, the more I felt like I should try to keep my feet on the ground and change as little as I could.”
Although he did buy a really nice mountain bike (well, more than one, actually), Duke said he avoided the lottery curse partially by knowing about it and refusing to let the windfall change his life. He didn’t even quit his job.
Family members started their own foundation
After winning a jaw-dropping $429 million Powerball prize in 2016, the Smith family of Trenton, New Jersey started The Smith Family Foundation, The goal of the foundation intends to beautify and enrich their community.
According to Pearlie Mae Smith, she and her seven adult children reportedly split the money. Then, after they paid off various loans and other financial obligations, they pooled together the money left to do something great. Today, their foundation works to fund programs that address systemic poverty. That’s about as far from the lottery curse as you can get!
Couple decided to donate almost all the money
When Canadian couple Allen and Violet Large made headlines after winning $11.2 million in 2010, they were already in their 70s. After ensuring their closest family members would be taken care of, they donated the rest of the money. Violet even called it a ‘big headache’ (can you imagine!) and the pair never even went on a spending spree.
“What you’ve never had, you never miss,” Violet, 78, told the Toronto Star.
The couple gave most of the money to the hospitals that had treated Violet for cancer, but local fire departments and the Red Cross also benefitted.
Winner opened a day camp for kids
Les Robins, a former teacher, won an $111 million jackpot in 1993, then the highest Powerball jackpot to date. Instead of squandering his newfound fortune, he bought a 226-acre plot of land and founded Camp Winnegator,
“I just hated to see kids not doing the kind of things we did growing up—playing soccer, softball, hanging out,” Robins told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel during a telephone interview in 2009.
The camp remains successful after twenty years in business. Now, thanks to his charitable efforts, kids between ages 6 and 16 who attend Camp Winnegator can do just that.