A Massachusetts woman has come forward as the sole winner of the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot, the largest single-ticket prize in U.S. lottery history.
Mavis Wanczyk, 53, was introduced at a press conference Thursday morning. She purchased the winning ticket in Chicopee, Massachusetts. She said she is still coming to terms with being the largest individual winner in U.S. lottery history. Her prize is second-only in Powerball history to the $1.3 billion shared by three winners in January 2016.
“Today, as I was driving here, I’m still like ‘this isn’t true, this can’t be,'” she told reporters. “And then now, it’s like ‘I am a winner.’ And I’m scared, but I’ll be OK. I’m just coming down from all that. I just want to be me, and be alone and figure out what I want.”
She said she came forward quickly to get it over with and never considered keeping her name private.
“I just wanted to do this, I wanted to just get it over, done with and then everybody will just leave me alone,” she said with a smile and a laugh.
When asked what she would be doing to celebrate tonight, she joked, “I’m going to go hide in my bed.”
Here’s what you need to know about Wanczyk and her big win:
1. Wanczyk Found Out Her ‘Pipe Dream’ of Winning the Lotto Had Come True While Leaving Work
Mave Wanczyk told reporters she found out that she won Wednesday night while she was leaving the Springfield hospital where she works. She was walking out with a friend, Rob, a Chicopee firefighter who also works with her at the hospital, and he told her the winning numbers.
“‘It’s never going to be me, it’s just a pipe dream I’ve always had,'” she said she thought as they talked about it. “And he’s reading these numbers and I pull mine out and I go ‘hey, I have that …’ and he goes ‘let me see that ticket,’ he goes, ‘you just won.'”
She said he thought he was joking, but then he told her no, “sign that ticket now.”
Wanczyk said she wasn’t able to drive anywhere after finding out she won because she was so stunned.
“I couldn’t do anything so he followed me to make sure I made it home safely,” she told reporters. “That’s how I found out, from him.”
Wanczyk, who goes by Mave, is a Southbridge, Massachusetts, native who moved to Springfield when she was 14 and now lives in Chicopee. Wanczyk is a regular lottery player, she said.
Wanczyk went into the store just to buy a ticket.
“Just go in, buy a ticket, it’s just a chance I had to take,” she said.
The odds of winning are 1 in 292 million, lottery officials say.
2. Wanczyk Called the Hospital Where She Has Worked for 32 Years & Told Them ‘I Won’t Be Coming Back’
Mavis Wanczyk currently works at Mercy Medical Center, a hospital in Springfield, where she has worked in patient care for 32 years.
“I’ve called them and told them I won’t be coming back,” she said while smiling and laughing.
Wanczyk, who was accompanied by her mother and her sisters at the press conference, is the mother of a 31-year-old daughter and a 26-year-old son, she told reporters. She is a graduate of Springfield Technical Community College, according to her Facebook page.
Wanczyk said that throughout her life she has “been OK” financially.
“I’m not going to say I’m the richest person in the world, I can’t say I’m the poorest person in the world, I make do with what I have,” she said.
When asked what she wants to do with all the money she has won, she said, “The first thing I want to do is just sit back and relax and I had a pipe dream and my pipe dream has finally come true, I wanted to retire in 12 (years) and it came early.”
3. She Says Her Numbers Are Random, but Based on Birthdays & Other Things From Her Life
The winning numbers were 6, 7, 16, 23 and 26, and the Powerball number was 4.
Mavis Wanczyk told reporters she chose the numbers for the winning ticket and also bought two “Quick Pick” tickets with other numbers.
“My numbers are kind of basically random,” she said. “Like maybe birthdays, maybe one from here, one from there, I just, whatever could work. There’s a thing between me and my mom and my stepfather, and a friend, we all go out to dinner on Friday night and we play Keno and our number is 4.”
She said she “just happened” to choose that number and it “worked for my advantage.”
The winning ticket was purchased about 2:30 p.m. on August 23 at the Pride Station & Store in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the Boston Herald reports.
Michael Sweeney, the head of the Massachusetts State Lottery, called Wanczyk, “Your prototypical Massachusetts resident.” He said she is a “hard-working” woman who is “excited” by her big win. Wanczyk showed up unexpectedly at the lottery headquarters in Braintree to reveal herself as the winner, and the press conference was held just hours later at 1 p.m.
“I think you’re going to be taken by her. I think she probably has a good story,” he told reporters before the press conference. “I think she actually represents probably what’s best about our lottery players here in the Commonwealth.”
4. The Pride Station & Store Plans to Donate Its Prize to Charity
The owner of the Pride Station & Store where Wanczyk bought the ticket, Bob Bolduc, said he will donate the $50,000 he received to local children’s charities.
“I didn’t have anything to do with it, it’s just a matter of luck,” Bolduc told reporters. “Somebody had to win and it just happened to be our chain.”
The Massachusetts State Lottery mistakenly identified the store where the winning ticket was purchased as Handy Variety, a convenience store in Watertown, but later said it was actually sold in Chicopee. The Handy Variety store sold a $1 million ticket.
“I didn’t know anything about that, I had no idea, I learned about that as the morning developed,” Bolduc said. “I got to the office around 8 o’clock, the phone was ringing, it was several national radio and TV stations and all of a sudden we knew it was real. They couldn’t all be making the same mistake.”
Bolduc didn’t say exactly what charities he will be supporting, but said they provide help to children, foster children and education.
“All the ones we support now know it,” he said, “and they are probably pretty happy now.”
5. She Will Take Home About $336 Million After Taxes by Taking a Lump Sum
The $758.7 million prize is the largest grand prize won by a single lottery ticket in U.S. history, Powerball Product Group Chair Charlie McIntyre told the Associated Press.
It is the second largest Powerball prize ever to the $1.6 billion prize shared by three people in January 2016, McIntyre says.
State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, whose office oversees the lottery, told MassLive she has encouraged Wanczyk and her family to think carefully about their next steps after the win.
“I highly encouraged them to first find a very, very good lawyer and adviser, and to think about very carefully how they’ll manage those assets,” Goldberg told reporters.
Goldberg said the win also brought in $20 million in taxes for the state of Massachusetts, and the hype around the Powerball jackpot led to a lot of sales for local retailers. She said the tax windfall will be a big help to local communities as Massachusetts lawmakers deal with budget issues.
“The profits of the Lottery go back in unrestricted funds to every community,” she said. “It’s the crossing guard, it’s the extra [snow] shoveling that needs to be done.”
If Wancyzk hadn’t taken the lump sum, the jackpot would have been paid out in 30 payments over 29 years, increasing 5 percent annually.
“The advantage of taking cash is that people can invest the money with hopes of a greater return than the guaranteed payments they would receive through the annuity. The downside is they’ll pay a little more in taxes and won’t have the certainty of giant annual paychecks for decades,” according to Fox Boston.