Dana Peace recently had what he described as "a very good day."
Peace, 26, of Fayette County walked into a Corner Amoco on Highway 54 in Sharpsburg to buy Fritos — a snack for girlfriend Holly Yelton's roommate. A snap decision at the checkout counter landed Peace with $5 in Quik Pik tickets for the June 22 Mega Millions drawing — only about an hour away.
Though Peace didn't watch the drawing that night, he called the Georgia Lottery Hotline the next morning as he drove his mother to the airport. Peace and his mother listened to the automated voice read off the numbers on the phone's speaker setting - "11-41-21-24-31..."
Like a wide-eyed Charlie Bucket pulling the golden ticket from a Wonka bar, Peace listened and watched in amazement as the first five numbers matched the top row on his ticket.
"I was hysterical," he said. "My eyes were watering. I was shaking."
Peace said he suddenly couldn't figure out how to get off the expressway.
"I think we circled the airport three times."
Peace called Yelton, of Senoia, to give her the big news.
"She didn't believe me," he said.
Yelton, who Peace said had always been a skeptic when it came to playing the lottery, let the news sink in for a few minutes. When she realized what Peace's winnings would be, she called him back.
Peace missed the Mega Millions $65-million jackpot by one digit - the Power Ball number was 23, his ticket read "33."
Peace received a check for $250,000.
"I won more than enough," he said. "I'm very thankful for what I got."
Peace found out about the win that Saturday morning. He couldn't claim his check until the following Monday. In that time, he set up a meeting with a financial adviser and made necessary arrangements.
When he had the check in hand, he'd already mapped out the next steps.
Peace attended Falcon Field's Aviation Academy several years ago in hopes of earning a commercial pilot's license. The cost of school, however, proved to be too much at the time. Since then, Peace has juggled jobs in an attempt to save money and return to the academy.
He reunited with Yelton, a high school classmate, during that time.
Peace has set aside a bulk of his winnings for school, and has already enrolled at Falcon Field.
In addition to flight school, Peace paid off his bills, gave a portion of his winnings to his mother, invested a sizable amount and has set some aside "for play," he said.
Proceeds from Georgia Lottery games are earmarked to benefit education in Georgia. Since its first year, the Georgia Lottery Corporation has returned more than $9 billion to the state for education. Profits pay for specific educational programs, including Georgia's HOPE Scholarship Program and Georgia's Pre-K program.
More than one million students have received the HOPE Scholarship to date, and more than 790,000 4-year-olds have attended the statewide, voluntary pre-K program.