When Candace Robinson’s phone rang shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday (Jan. 10), the 85-year-old great-grandmother was convinced she was about to be scammed.
As it turned out she had just won a million bucks, courtesy of the 2013 Dream Lottery.
“I thought it was a hoax,” she said. “I was skeptical, all right!”
The mother of three, grandmother of five and great-grandmother of four (with a fifth on the way) was leery as St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation CEO Michelle Campbell told her over the phone she had just won the grand prize.
The grand prize was a choice of the Thistleridge house, fully furnished with a brand new cherry red Infiniti sedan in the driveway and half a million dollars, a Grand Bend home and $100,000 cash or $1 million outright.
Robinson hadn’t even seen the home at 870 Thistleridge Cres. until she stepped onto the driveway.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It’s starting to sink in now.”
She said that’s why she wanted her daughter, Linda Prior, to literally come along for the ride as a lottery official picked them up in the Infiniti: “For support.”
Robinson’s other children are scattered around the province. Standing in the garage of the dream home without a hair out of place, she said her hairdresser was the only other person she had told.
This was the 19th annual draw and Robinson said she has been buying tickets since day one.
She said she buys “to help out and to take a chance.”
The Dream Lottery is a self-sustaining fundraising program that has raised over $21 million in the past 18 years, supporting the London Health Sciences Foundation (LHSF), the Children’s Health Foundation and St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation.
According to LHSF CEO Dan Ross, the lottery allows the foundation to enhance medical programming that may not be as well known in the community because there are no strings tied to the dollars it provides.
“It allows us to provide funds for programs that are less top-of-mind, and by doing that, it really helps patients,” Ross said. “It’s very, very important.”
Campbell said the money funds a layer of excellence in health care London wouldn’t have otherwise.
“All of the money provides for us to do significant things that the government doesn’t provide,” she said. “Those are things like funding hospital-based medical research here in London (and) fuelling innovative medical technologies, providing professional development educational opportunities to advance our knowledge base and to provide better care. We often have to pay for those kinds of things ourselves.”
Campbell said Robinson’s skepticism wasn’t unheard of in the world of million-dollar phone calls.
“It’s a fun call to make,” she said. “I can’t tell you how exciting it is to tell somebody but you always have a couple of moments on the phone when you have to convince them it’s not a joke. It’s not a call people expect to get: they never think they’re going to win the grand prize. Then there is a moment of euphoria that happens when someone realizes they actually have won. (Robinson) was good, she was very cautious.”