COLUMBIA, S.C. — The winner of the largest Mega Millions jackpot in US history — $1.5 billion — is sharing her newfound wealth.
The lucky South Carolina woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, is donating to the Alabama Red Cross to aid tornado relief and several South Carolina charities.
She decided to donate because she claimed the money when a tornado struck Alabama in early March, her lawyer Jason Kurland said.
“It just felt like we were having this great event when there were people suffering nearby,” Kurland told CNN.
Kurland added the winner doesn’t want to announce exactly how much she’s donating to the charities.
“We spoke with the charities and agreed it would be best not to announce. We want to announce the charities to spread awareness,” Kurland said.
The other organizations include the Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Columbia, South Carolina; In The Middle, a charity that helps women with breast cancer; the City of Simpsonville Art Center; and the One SC Fund for Hurricane Florence relief.
“Words can’t describe the feeling of such incredible luck,” the winner said in a Thursday statement through her lawyer.
“I do realize that such good fortune carries a tremendous social responsibility, and it gives me a unique opportunity to assist, support and contribute to charities and causes that are close to my heart.”
She did her research before claiming the prize
The winner chose to take home the one-time lump sum of $878 million from the October 2018 drawing, which was the largest jackpot payout to a single winner in US history.
However, she laid low for months and did not claim her winnings until March 4. She spent time researching professionals to help preserve her anonymity and manage her new fortune, her lawyer said.
She has decided to keep her identity private for her safety, her lawyer said. South Carolina is one of few states that allows lottery winners to remain anonymous.
Her lawyer said in a statement that she wants to “live a life of relative normalcy, free of fear.”
The statement answers some questions about the winner after the South Carolina lottery announced the winning ticket had been claimed. She is a woman, from South Carolina — exactly where wasn’t disclosed — and was taking a scenic drive on two-lane state Highway 417 in the Greenville area in late October when the signs advertising the billion-dollar jackpot at the KC Mart in Simpsonville caught her eye.
“She decided to take a chance and purchase a ticket, never once thinking she had the slightest chance to win. After checking her ticket the morning after the drawing, she was in complete shock and disbelief. She stared motionless at the ticket for what felt like hours, then came the jumping and screams of joy,” Kurland wrote in his statement.
An earlier statement from the lottery said the woman had the lottery computer pick her numbers and let someone go in front of her in line to buy their tickets.