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Teacher won Powerball lottery jackpot in 1993, now runs camp for kids

After the Big WinAfter the Big Win: Teacher won Powerball lottery jackpot in 1993, now runs camp for kids
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MALONE, Wis. — Down a near mile-long driveway, past farm fields overflowing with hay, corn and beans, there is a magical place along Lake Winnebago's eastern shore, where hundreds of children come to ride horses, play games, paint pictures and spend time in the great outdoors.

It's called Camp Winnegator, a local day camp that runs four or five weeks every summer, primarily catering to kids from in and around Fond du Lac. In fact, knowledge of the camp passes mostly by word of mouth, from one family to the next.

And, yet, this camp is special, not just because of how it helps kids disconnect from cell phones and video games, gets them to splash around in cool lake water and explore trails on horseback, but also because of the joy it brings to the man who helped create it all.

His name is Les Robins.

Yes, that Les Robins. The former junior high school teacher from Fond du Lac who in July 1993 was thrust from obscurity into the national spotlight when he won a $111 million Powerball jackpot, a record at the time.

For the past nine years, Robins, through a family foundation, has overseen the camp on 226 acres he purchased with a portion of his lottery winnings.

The camp near his waterfront home includes riding stables, a gym and pool, miniature golf course and enough powered water toys to keep campers ages 6 to 16 afloat on the lake.

The camp's name, Winnegator, combines two of his loves: Lake Winnebago and the University of Florida Gators.

It harkens back to his own childhood in Florida, of going to camp, and later becoming a camp counselor.

"I just hated to see kids not doing the kind of things we did growing up - playing soccer, softball, hanging out," Robins said during a telephone interview.

Now 46, Robins keeps a low profile, often tooling around his property in a 13-year-old Jeep Grand Cherokee. On Friday nights, when weekly camp sessions end, he usually takes a place in the back of the gym, watching as kids, their parents and counselors eat dinner.

When the summer season concluded Friday, Robins was recovering from an ankle injury and unable to attend the last dinner.

But the parents whose kids attended the camp certainly appreciated Robins' efforts.

"I would hope that if I was in his situation, I'd do something to give back to the community," said Jake Kraus, whose daughters Kayla, 8, and Kirsten, 5, attended the camp. "It's great what Les has done."

This may not be the life Robins had planned, but it's the life he now lives.

In many ways, he has beaten the odds, not just by winning the lottery, but by not squandering the fortune. History is replete with lottery winners turned losers, people who run through the cash and end up in bankruptcy or misery.

Robins' advice for future winners: Put a portion of the cash into an irrevocable trust for up to three years.

"Let time tell them what they really want to do with it," he said.

Life-changing event

On July 7, 1993, Robins helped put the "Miracle" in Fond du Lac's famed "Miracle Mile," the strip of grocery and convenience stores that sold a string of big-money winning lottery tickets.

About four hours before the drawing, Robins ran an errand at a local Sentry store for his then-fiancee Colleen DeVries. He purchased a lottery ticket with the numbers 4, 8, 19, 28, 41 and Powerball 30. The odds of being the sole winner were around 1 in 54.9 million.

He watched the drawing, wrote down the numbers, and when the Powerball 30 came up, joked that he had won a buck.

"When I put the numbers in order, I was a little stunned," he said.

He had them all.

"It definitely changed my life," he said. "Obviously, it changed in both positive and negative ways."

Asked to elaborate, he quoted a fragment from Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," the line, "Yet knowing how way leads on to way."

"You never know where you're headed," he said. "You can try to plan it out all you want, but time takes you where you don't have a choice."

Robins went to court to legally divide the prize money with DeVries. They never married.

Robins later married another woman and built his dream home, along with the riding complex by the lake. The marriage ended in divorce.

That's when Robins decided to open the camp. He runs the camp with the help of Jill Wagner, Jerry Engle and a staff of well-trained counselors. Wagner's husband helped build Robins' home. Engle met Robins on a landscape job.

"He wants to give back to the kids; get the kids back to basics," Wagner said.

A week's tuition at the camp costs $250.

"It's not a money-maker (for Robins)," Wagner said.

But it helps Robins do what he always intended - teach children. He no longer works in a classroom. In recent years, he has handled volunteer basketball coaching assignments in Wisconsin and his native Florida.

"I basically consider myself a mentor to kids in any way I can be, whether it's in the classroom, their personal lives or on the basketball court," he said.

He'll soon go through another great life change, as big as winning a lottery. He fell in love with a third-grade schoolteacher from Florida. In a few weeks, they'll marry.

"We really don't know where we're going to live yet," he said. "She's very supportive of me. She knows how much I love kids with the camp and the coaching."

The logo for Camp Winnegator comes from a combination of Lake Winnebago's name and owner Les Robins' alma mater, the University of Florida Gators. The camp was founded by Robins, the former Fond du Lac middle school teacher who won a $111 million Powerball jackpot 16 years ago. The day camp for kids ages 6-16 is on his property, where campers use the lakefront.(Click for full-size; opens in new window)The logo for Camp Winnegator comes from a combination of Lake Winnebago's name and owner Les Robins' alma mater, the University of Florida Gators. The camp was founded by Robins, the former Fond du Lac middle school teacher who won a $111 million Powerball jackpot 16 years ago. The day camp for kids ages 6-16 is on his property, where campers use the lakefront.

Thanks to duce for the tip.

Journal Sentinel

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13 comments. Last comment 5 years ago by Jimhowlett.
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Qabloc!zewana
Neutral Zone
Member #14628
April 29, 2005
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Posted: August 23, 2009, 6:32 pm - IP Logged

That's great.  I'd like to "give back" too, but 2 things:  I haven't yet won, and the <snip> IRS keeps taking all of it.

This post has been automatically changed by the Lottery Post computer system to remove inappropriate content and/or spam.

    Avatar

    United States
    Member #34266
    March 1, 2006
    188 Posts
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    Posted: August 23, 2009, 8:06 pm - IP Logged

    In  less than 20 years the odds of winning the PB jackpot went from 1 in 54 million, to 1 in 192 million...doesn't seem right to increase the odds so much in such a short period....lucky guy who gave back to the community.....nice story

      Halle99's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
      United States
      United States
      Member #68252
      December 16, 2008
      168 Posts
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      Posted: August 23, 2009, 8:22 pm - IP Logged

      US Flag

      Lovely story.......WTG

      "Wait eagerly for the Lord, and keep to the way; God wil raise you to possess the land; you will gloat when the wicked are cut off".

                                                                                    Psalms 37:34

        RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
        mid-Ohio
        United States
        Member #9
        March 24, 2001
        17943 Posts
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        Posted: August 23, 2009, 9:07 pm - IP Logged

        Sounds like he shared his winnings a lot before he shared it with the community.  First he legally split it with a fiancée he never married, then he later married another woman and got divorced which meant he had to share it again.  Having to share their fortune two times with women no longer in their lives would ruin some men but it sounds like it worked out fine for him.  I guess $111M can be shared several times and still be enough to live comfortable.

        * you don't need more tickets, just the right ticket * 
        * your best chance at winning a lottery jackpot is to buy a ticket * 
             Wink 

          DelmarvaChick's avatar - wallace
          Ohio
          United States
          Member #68398
          December 20, 2008
          81 Posts
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          Posted: August 23, 2009, 11:27 pm - IP Logged

          Sounds like he shared his winnings a lot before he shared it with the community.  First he legally split it with a fiancée he never married, then he later married another woman and got divorced which meant he had to share it again.  Having to share their fortune two times with women no longer in their lives would ruin some men but it sounds like it worked out fine for him.  I guess $111M can be shared several times and still be enough to live comfortable.

          He may only have had to split it once if he had a pre-nump before he got married to his wife. Either way, I believe most average people should be able to live comfortably on the intrest generated from netting a 1 million dollars in jackpot money. You're not stupid rich, but you should be able to pay typical "life related" bills without thinking about it.  That's not to say I'd give a jackpot back if I thought it was too much money  Wink

            thor's avatar - thor
            Deep in the Woods of Texas
            United States
            Member #68454
            December 22, 2008
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            Posted: August 24, 2009, 7:27 am - IP Logged

            this is the story one wants to read. he made a choice to put others in place of his selfishness that most large jackpot winners usually do.

            irregardless if he had personal issues, this guy sets the example that one needs to follow. I Cor. 13

            "Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it"

            by: Henry David Thoreau


              United States
              Member #1630
              June 7, 2003
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              Posted: August 24, 2009, 10:05 am - IP Logged

              God bless this man for giving back to children in a positive way.  He had made a positive impact for us all.  These  children will be great contributors to society because this man took the time to provide a safe place for children to just be children.  God is blessing him everyday and will continue to bless him for what he has done.  And he is still teaching children, doing what he loves and that is what children need,someone to prepare them for education and life and he is helping children to be individuals who will see the unselfish things that he has done for them and these children will do the same for others.  Even if one  child does what he has done, that will make the world a better place.  God bless this man for all he is doing.

                ConstantlyB's avatar - masked
                Wilson
                United States
                Member #54516
                August 21, 2007
                2796 Posts
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                Posted: August 24, 2009, 5:44 pm - IP Logged

                God bless this man for giving back to children in a positive way.  He had made a positive impact for us all.  These  children will be great contributors to society because this man took the time to provide a safe place for children to just be children.  God is blessing him everyday and will continue to bless him for what he has done.  And he is still teaching children, doing what he loves and that is what children need,someone to prepare them for education and life and he is helping children to be individuals who will see the unselfish things that he has done for them and these children will do the same for others.  Even if one  child does what he has done, that will make the world a better place.  God bless this man for all he is doing.

                I Agree! I  couldn't have put it better coolmoney. He will continually be blessed.

                "MAKE THAT MONEY YA'LL"

                wisdom from Tyler Perry's Madea:"It doesn't matter what people call you....it's what you answer to."

                  dpoly1's avatar - driver
                  PA
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                  October 16, 2008
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                  Posted: August 25, 2009, 1:19 am - IP Logged

                  I do believe that I would do some good things if I won a Jackpot also !

                  Cool

                    diamondpalace's avatar - Untitled 2.jpg
                    Dallas, TX
                    United States
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                    April 12, 2008
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                    Posted: August 25, 2009, 3:48 am - IP Logged

                    Great person.

                      wizeguy's avatar - animaniacs04

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                      May 10, 2005
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                      Posted: August 25, 2009, 5:09 am - IP Logged

                      All the teachers I've got to know beyond the classroom have been very good with money. Les Robins, I applaud you with what you've done with yours!

                        RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                        mid-Ohio
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                        Posted: August 25, 2009, 10:40 am - IP Logged

                        I do believe that I would do some good things if I won a Jackpot also !

                        Cool

                        Why wait until you've won a lottery jackpot? Wink

                        * you don't need more tickets, just the right ticket * 
                        * your best chance at winning a lottery jackpot is to buy a ticket * 
                             Wink 

                          Avatar
                          Northern Ohio
                          United States
                          Member #63551
                          August 1, 2008
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                          Posted: August 25, 2009, 3:50 pm - IP Logged

                          God, I hate the Florida Gators.

                           

                          I wouldn't touch that camp with someone else's travel plan