25 March 2015
From breast implants to buying land on the moon, we've heard it all when it comes to what lotto winners do with their jackpot winnings. We're certainly in no position to judge - if we won the lotto we'd be buying a residence aboard The World, the largest private residential ship on earth, and sailing the seven seas for the rest of our days. Philanthropy isn't at the top of most lotto winners' lists - instead most pay off debt, help out family and friends, and indulge in the luxuries they've always wanted.
However, someone to whom philanthropy is a priority is Roy Cockrum, a lotto player from the USA who last June won the biggest Powerball jackpot in Tennessee's history - a colossal $259 million. Taking home a lump sum of $115 million after taxes, Roy already knew what his plans for his giant windfall would be.
"I had made a mental note throughout my life of all the people who were going to get my support should I ever have a pile of cash," he says. "I think everyone who plays the lottery knows what they would do with the money, were they to win. Wouldn't you?"
As a theatre graduate from Northwestern University, Roy has a special place in his heart for the dramatic arts, which makes his latest lotto spend all the more understandable. Instead of spending his jackpot on exotic vacations and luxurious frivolities, Roy is using part of it to benefit others - by donating the majority of his Powerball winnings to non-profit American theatre.
The state of Chicago has already benefited from Roy's overwhelming generosity, with two sizable grants given on Roy's behalf to the Goodman Theatre and the Steppenwolf Theatre. These two donations are in keeping with Roy's mandate as a former actor and stage manager - to support theatre companies engaged in artistic projects that are out of the ordinary, rather than mainstream. Coming from a lotto winner whose jackpot was most certainly out of the ordinary, it's a purpose we can understand.
"I do not intend to fund buildings or endowments or to buy tables at galas," Roy says. "And I am well aware that, for an organisation without the right infrastructure, huge grants like these can be disastrous. So I intend to support productions at theaters with the capacity to manage and mount them."
Roy has made similar lotto donations in the past to worthy causes such as Doctors Without Borders, but this is his first philanthropic gesture to the arts. "I think society is in trouble when culture is ignored," he explains. "People can be duped by the first political wind that blows their way. They can be persuaded to vote against their own self-interest. Culture is what enriches us all. We are all in trouble when the arts are not supported, when there is no seed of change."
Amen to that Roy, and a huge thank you from us for doing your part in keeping arts and culture alive!
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