Some lottery winners choose to spend their newly acquired fortune on lavish cars or homes with enough rooms to rival some hotels. Others, who are a bit more fiscally responsible, put their winnings in savings or invest it in the stock market in the hopes of doubling their money. And then there are those like 51 year-old Lerynne West of Dexter, Iowa.
West, a single mom of three, was one of two winners (the other resides in New York City) of last month’s Powerball. The jackpot was over $687 million, the third largest jackpot in Powerball’s history.
West joined Ellen this week to discuss how she found out she had a winning ticket and what she plans to do with her millions.
In addition to starting her own charity, The Callum Foundation, in honor of her late grandson, West decided to donate $500,000 to the Travis Mills Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping wounded veterans and their families.
West told Ellen that the Travis Mills Foundation has a “very special place” in her heart.
“My dad was a Vietnam vet. I come from a long line of people who have served in the military—three of my brothers” she explained. “I think it’s very important to me that we never forget the sacrifices that our soldiers and their families make for our country.”
Travis Mills, the founder of the Travis Mills Foundation, is a retired United States Army Staff Sergeant who lost all four limbs after an IED explosion during his third tour in Afghanistan. He had no clue what West was going to do on Ellen and found out about the generous donation while on his way home from a week long trip around the country.
After receiving multiple calls from his staff while on his way to the airport in Atlanta, his initial thought was “something’s wrong.”
“I thought, ‘Oh crap, someone died,'” Mills said in a Facebook Live video. “Nope, someone didn’t die. Let me tell you what happened.”
“This lovely, amazing lady in Iowa who won the jackpot on the Powerball decided to go on Ellen today, not telling any of us and she donated, live on Ellen, $500,000 to the Travis Mills Foundation,” he explained.
“That money goes a long way; we’re going to be able to help out so many families. And to that lovely young lady with three beautiful children…we want to say thank you.”
“We are so thrilled to have another supporter on our team,” Mills concluded.
You can watch West’s full interview on Ellen below.