1. Small-town Missouri family
Mark and Cindy Hill were a married couple living in the small Missouri town of Camden Point when their lives changed completely. They were in their early 50s. Three of their adult children had moved out of the house and had families of their own, and the couple was raising their then-6-year-old daughter adopted from China.
Recently, their financial situation had become a bit tighter, and making ends meet was more of a struggle than it had been in the past. What’s more, Mark’s son was concerned about his father’s health condition. But they could never in their wildest dreams imagine that a massive lottery win was on the horizon.
2. Working parents
Times were a bit rocky for the Hill parents and their youngest daughter, Jaiden. Mark was working at a meat processing factory for hot dogs and deli goods. For the time being, he had to serve as the sole supporter of their immediate household, as their income was no longer coming from two sources.
In 2010, the family’s matriarch, Cindy, had been laid off from her previous job working as an office manager. Since then, she had been on the job hunt, but to no avail. To make matters even more complicated, she still hoped she could be home more often for their little girl. Opportunities didn’t seem to be cropping up, so without high expectations, she took a completely wild chance.
3. The Powerball lottery
It was announced that the national Powerball lottery had reached a record-high number, a whopping sum of $587 million. At that point in time, November 2012, this was the second-highest lottery draw to ever be declared. In a community such as this, these sums seemed practically unreal.
Despite this jackpot seeming utterly unattainable, that was the nature of the game: It could be anyone’s, no matter where in the nation they called home. Although the Hill family wasn’t counting on anything big, the humongous number that had been announced was simply too tempting for Cindy to pass up.
4. A quick purchase
Cindy Hill stopped at her local gas station. She bought five Powerball lottery tickets for her family, costing her a total of $10. While many people have their own superstitions and believe in lucky numbers that dictate their decision-making, she did no such thing. Instead, she opted to have the computer choose.
She simply took whatever she was offered by the lottery ticket generator, leaving it utterly to chance and not involving any guesses or any personal preferences. It wasn’t even her own choice of numbers. What were the odds? It was up to fate itself, and nothing more, to call the shots.
5. Reality check
The lottery tickets were not something Cindy Hill paid much mind to. She even left them in her car overnight after their purchase. When her 6-year-old daughter asked her about the tickets, Cindy had to lovingly give her a gentle parental reality check, telling her nobody ever really wins those things. It certainly must have seemed that way then.
Little did she know just how ironic those words she said to her daughter were about to become. As fate would have it, in hindsight, she would be pinching herself, wondering how on Earth she even decided to haphazardly throw the tickets in the car where they could have easily been snatched.
6. Daily routine
The next morning, Cindy took her 6-year-old daughter to school. It was shaping up to be an ordinary day, with nothing to distinguish it from the family’s usual routine. But then, Cindy heard something that made her a bit curious. A winning Powerball lottery ticket had been sold in their state, Missouri.
Intrigued, though not bearing any grand expectations, she drove over to a convenience store, curious to have a peek at the numbers that had been announced. At the bare minimum, the tickets had only cost her $10, so it wouldn’t be a huge letdown if, as expected, she hadn’t won the lottery.
7. An astonishing revelation
Cindy Hill had no way of even beginning to sense it at the time, but as she took those first steps through the door of the shop, she was effectively leaving behind the previous chapter of her life. When she went to the convenience store, she saw — there on the screen — something that left her absolutely mystified.
The numbers they were reporting perfectly matched one of her five lottery tickets. From the look of things, of all the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people nationwide who had participated in the Powerball lottery draw, this one lucky woman in a small town in Missouri had the winning ticket! What was about to play out, though, would be all the more remarkable.
8. Utter disbelief
Hilariously enough, Cindy’s first reaction was total suspicion. This coincidence — the numbers announced on the screen and the numbers on the Powerball lottery ticket she had purchased — simply could not be accurate. Her heart racing, she whipped out her phone to call her husband and mother-in-law to have them verify it.
Cindy Hill was certain her eyes were playing tricks on her. Rather than immediately accepting the news, she was filled with skepticism, but she trembled with excitement. She thought she was having a heart attack. But, in fact, nothing was wrong with her eyes. And she wasn’t the only one who was apparently about to collect big.
9. Collateral benefits
The front clerks at the convenience store were over the moon with excitement for Cindy. They were all smiles, as a condition of the draw was that the store that sold the winning ticket would also receive $50,000. They proudly brandished the receipts proving they too were beneficiaries of this incredible lottery draw.
Suddenly, the Hills, a small family struggling to make ends meet in a small town, were about to be in possession of nearly $300 million, roughly half of the sum of the lottery. But they instantly had to take great caution. With the great winnings would also come great challenges. The Hills would have to tread carefully, seeing as an estimated 70% of lottery winners go bankrupt within just a few years of coming into a large financial windfall, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education.
10. The drawbacks of fame
Having such an enormous sum of money come their way had happened by chance, but managing it was going to require skill and much deliberate thought. It was highly likely that with the amount of publicity that was about to come their way, people wishing them ill will could come forward.
Not to mention, any random person wanting to take advantage of the staggering size of newfound wealth that the Hill family had acquired could make things difficult for them. And last but not least, they had to think carefully about what they wanted to do with all that money — and how they would let it influence who they were as people.
11. Keeping it simple
Naturally, having such a significant sum of cash suddenly land in their laps allowed the Hill family’s imaginations to run wild. But at first, they had simple wishes. Their cute little girl wanted to have a pony. Additionally, because working a traditional job wouldn’t necessarily have to be their priority, they could also take time to travel.
The Hill family was of Irish heritage, so they wanted to see what their ancestral homeland in Ireland looked like. Additionally, they announced that they wanted to go back on a sightseeing trip to China, where they had adopted daughter Jaiden. Along with all that, they also had far bigger plans in mind for their winnings.
12. First things first
First, they took care of their family’s needs, both immediate and long-term. They planned a trip to the beach, as their youngest daughter had never been to one before, given Missouri’s geographic position. They also generously set up college funds for their nieces, nephews, and grandchildren to ensure that their future options in life would be bright.
Then, they began to look around the house at the items they used in their everyday lives, wondering what could be improved and upgraded. Mark noted that his pickup truck was old and badly run-down. He might as well have replaced it with a tank or a private jet. What would happen next would be a true show of character.
13. Sports car fantasy
Most people would think that Mark Hill would immediately go out and buy something absolutely luxurious with the lottery winnings. It would barely put the tiniest dent in the hundreds of millions of dollars that had come his way. But then again, casual observers didn’t know who the Hill family were, and what principles defined them.
Even though Mark had dreamed of getting a Camaro sports car to replace his worn pickup, he did something that would defy any ordinary person’s expectations of the family: He instead just bought himself a new pickup truck to replace the old one. Money wasn’t going to change the Hill family’s character. And their entire town was about to see precisely what that meant.
14. Moral pillars
Through conversations together, the Hill family had come out of the incredible announcement of winning the Powerball lottery with strong convictions. Being grateful for the factors that had shaped their lives would prove to be a guiding force in helping them decide where best to put their newfound wealth.
Whatever was going to happen to them, they wanted to make sure they did not let this chance winning get to their heads and transform them as people. What’s more, it was imperative that their initial acts with this money would benefit their community. For Mark, the answer could not have been clearer.
15. In the middle of Missouri
The community that the Hill family lived in was relatively tiny, though it was still technically considered a city. Its entire population was made up of less than 500 people and it was located in a rural area of the state, not far from the border of Kansas.
The nearest big city was Kansas City, roughly 30 miles to the south. Camden Point’s downtown was in bad need of some cheer, as it mostly consisted of abandoned brick buildings. The entire area’s infrastructure was ripe for an upgrade. But little did the small community know just how the Hills would bring a change unlike anything they expected.
16. Helping the helpers
Mark immediately thought of those forces in their community that had most directly touched and impacted his family’s lives. Twice in the past few years, firefighters had helped to save the life of Mark’s father. Even if he couldn’t adequately translate his gratitude to a number to be paid, perhaps there was another way to help those who dedicated their lives to saving others.
It just so happened that Walter Stubbs, the fire chief in Mark and Cindy’s hometown of Camden Point, was a high school friend. Of course, one has to take into consideration that nothing is too coincidental in such a small town. Mark and Cindy thought up an excellent present for him.
17. Improving conditions
Mark and Cindy Hill decided they wanted to dedicate a portion of their money to helping their local fire station. When they came to their old friend, Camden Point fire chief Walter Stubbs, saying it was their wish to grant him some funds, he could scarcely believe what they were telling him.
The fire chief’s first ideas were all unabashedly humble. He thought of the immediate needs at the Camden Point fire station that could be solved quite simply, like new equipment, or perhaps an additional firetruck to add to the battalion under his command. He couldn’t have possibly predicted what was coming next.
18. Entirely revamped
Walter had underestimated just what Mark and Cindy had in mind for him. The Hill family informed Walter Stubbs that they wanted to build him an entirely new fire station. For some reason, the current one had been built in an inconvenient way, such that it was not located near major roads.
The new fire station would be built beside the highway, to better serve the town’s needs. Overnight, Mark and Cindy had become massive decision-makers shaping the fate of their community, and they showed how generous they were willing to be. But constructing a new firehouse was just the beginning.
19. Expanded facilities
The new fire station that the Hill family planned to build as a gift for their town would have a larger garage so as to contain even more emergency vehicles. It would also include a living space so that any firefighter who had to put in a long shift would have a comfortable space to rest.
Mark and Cindy wanted to make sure that the brave souls who put their lives on the line to ensure the safety of everyone in the community around them were well taken care of. The town was overjoyed. After all, what community that size has a firehouse so advanced, and open 24/7? But the Hills were not done doling out to unassuming beneficiaries.
20. Of jackpots and Cracker Jacks
Mark and Cindy Hill also wanted to upgrade the town in a way that would not only make it safer but also allow the local residents to enjoy a better quality of life. So they opted to encourage that most American of pastimes, and bought the town a brand new baseball field!
Much like the fire station, there were structural issues with the existing baseball field that the area had been using at the time. The old park was far too close to passing traffic, which was ironically the opposite problem of the firehouse. Even then, the Hills weren’t done showing just how far their generosity in the face of fortune would go.
21. Ground up
The Hill family wanted to repair their beloved town’s infrastructure. To do so most efficiently, they had to think about what was necessary to aid their community from the ground up — literally. So what could they do in order to improve drainage? They bought the land needed for a $50,000 new sewage treatment plant.
With this new system, the residents would not have to rely on their own septic tanks at home. In every possible stratum of their town’s everyday functioning, the Hills were prepared to intervene and to give back from the gift the Powerball lottery had presented them. What would they do next?
22. Widening the lens
The Hills had totally reshaped their town’s infrastructure, revamping its security system, sewage system, and making sure the next generation would be able to enjoy themselves in this small place they had always called home. But, as if that hadn’t been “the bigger picture,” now they expanded their vision even further.
Surprisingly, even with all their charitable donations for the betterment of Camden Point, they had barely tapped into their reservoir of lottery winnings. It wasn’t enough for them. Rather than splurging on flashy new possessions, they would now take a good look back into their past for inspiration — and it would take them out of their present community.
23. School days
Mark and Cindy had both attended North Platte High School in Dearborn, Missouri, a few towns over from Camden Point. They had already taken care of their own family’s scholastic future. But that seemed an obvious answer as to what one does with Powerball lottery winnings, and it just didn’t satisfy them.
They had the opportunity to impact so many more people, and not just in their town itself. Mark and Cindy wanted to share their gift to thank every part of the society that had helped them get where they are today. Improving living conditions was noble and answered immediate needs, but they wanted to think long-term.
24. A lesson in giving
The Hills decided they would set up a scholarship fund at North Platte High School. They wanted to be able to give talented students that extra boost to ensure they could go on to bigger and greater things, even outside the scope of their quiet rural community and its surroundings.
All these acts of kindness had made ripples across Missouri, and put their community in the spotlight of national news for readers eager to know how these small-town Powerball lottery winners were spending their cash. So just how did the locals react to these magnanimous changes and the sudden focus on their town?
25. A mayor’s gratitude
Kevin Boydston, mayor of Camden Point, Missouri, was overwhelmed with gratitude for the way that Mark and Cindy Hill impacted their community. According to his evaluation, from the way in which the Hills had invested in their town’s infrastructure, they had transformed the town in a way that could have taken a quarter of a century to achieve.
As much as people reading about their story may have been surprised by their insistence on focusing their energies on a small town, the mayor and others who knew the Hills would have expected nothing less from them, even in the face of extreme wealth. They thought the lottery could not possibly have been awarded to a more appropriate couple. So what did the Hills themselves feel?
26. Final calculations
Though they had won half of one of the largest Powerball lotteries in American history, that wasn’t the number they received in the end. After having won this mind-bogglingly huge sum in the lottery, the Hill family managed to pocket for themselves an estimated $136.5 million “in a lump-sum payment” following taxes.
After completing these local projects, they could have chosen an entirely new path. With that kind of money, they could have lived anywhere they wanted, in whatever kind of home they wished. But the Hill family elected to do something about their living situation that would leave many people following their story scratching their heads.
27. Where the heart is
Despite their unimaginable wealth, this small-town family just couldn’t be taken out of the surroundings that had nurtured them up to this point. They loved where they lived, and no amount of wealth was going to change that. They remained in Camden Point, just as they had before, albeit living slightly more comfortably.
Even with all that money that they had acquired under the most extraordinary circumstances, their small Missouri town was where they were most content. Despite it all, Mark still goes to coffee with his friends in the mornings at a local store, just as always. But the incredibly low odds of all this happening makes their story even more incredible.
28. 1 in (more than) a million
The Powerball lottery is offered in 44 states in the U.S., along with the District of Columbia and overseas territories Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The numbers are announced based on a machine jumbling and mixing white balls and a separate one containing red balls. At the end of it all, Mark and Cindy’s lives had been forever changed by two simple devices. Their odds of scoring, according to statistics from January 2012, were 1 in 175,223,510.
The announcer draws five white balls from the first machine and then one red ball from the other one. If someone has won the Powerball lottery, they can either receive their winnings in two installments or have it paid to them over 30 annual installments. Other lottery winners have been drastically different from the Hills in their approach to suddenly inheriting huge sums.
29. Keep it secret
It was clear that the Hills were baffled by their newfound fame. Mark himself even admitted in interviews that he would love to stop talking about it and just enjoy living his life. One Powerball jackpot winner in New Hampshire took that statement even further by refusing to claim the winnings.
The lottery in New Hampshire requires that the owner of the winning Powerball lottery ticket must sign their name and address on the back of the ticket. One woman who won actually took the commission to court to insist on her right to privacy and won her $560 million jackpot quietly. So what should you do if you find yourself in a similar situation?
30. Powering the Powerball
In the rare event that someone wins the Powerball lottery, understanding how to manage the winnings and its consequences may not seem clear. The first necessary steps are protecting the ticket and claiming it as your own: signing it and then guarding it in a safe deposit box.
If someone wins the lottery, it may even be advisable to temporarily rent a hotel room, to change email addresses, phone numbers, and even to take down social media profiles. But the first step that winners have to take, before using any of those incredible funds, is to pay the taxes on them!