Couple who won jackpot in 2019 have already given £60 million to charities, friends, and family
By Kate Northrop
In just nearly two years, an English couple who won a £114.9 million (US$153.7 million) EuroMillions jackpot, the fourth largest awarded by the UK National Lottery since its inception, have already given away half of their winnings to friends, family and charities.
Frances, 54, and her husband, Patrick Connolly, 56, found out that they won the massive prize on New Year's Day in 2019. The couple, who purchased the winning lottery ticket using the numbers 1, 8, 11, 25, and 28 with Lucky Stars 4 and 6, went right to work and put together a list of 50 friends and family she wanted to help.
"I didn't set out to give half away, that's just what happened," Frances said. "We sat down and looked at the list and kind of figured out what we thought would make a difference in people's lives."
Her generosity didn't stop there. The Connollys had also set up two charities to help those in need near where they live in northeast England. One is the Kathleen Graham Trust, in honor of Frances' mother, which supports local groups in Ireland close to where both Frances and Patrick grew up. The other is the PFC Trust located in Hartlepool, where they spent much of their lives. The organization aims to support various groups in the local area by fundraising for and organizing projects.
The couple now has a scrapbook filled with 300 thank you cards from people whose lives were changed for the better by Frances' kindness. Many of the cards came from strangers who she never met.
"There are cards from a 14-year-old and one from an 85-year-old who both received tablets to keep in touch during the lockdown," Frances said. "The cards are each a reminder of the power of the lottery and how it has changed not only our lives, but other people's too."
One card she received was from a man whose wheelchair modifications she paid for. The note simply said, "Thank you." Reading it brought Frances to tears for two hours.
The money she spent on helping needy families has meant that nearly 175 households were able to either acquire a home or pay off their mortgages.
"That's £60 million [US$80.25 million] worth of love," Frances said. "And the thing that makes me even happier is that every single person we gave money to has passed some of it on to other people. I can't think of a day since winning the Lottery that I haven't smiled."
Even when Frances and Patrick flew to New Zealand to visit their daughter, they flew business class over first class because they figured the money spent on upgrading their seat "could pay a mortgage for a young person."
When the couple had originally found out that they won the lottery, they celebrated in a manner respective to their easygoing nature — with a hug and a cup of tea, vowing to never allow the new wealth to change their values.
"I have had more joy from changing lives than buying jewelry," Frances remarked. "I knew from the start that I'd never become part of the jet set."
Of course, the winners still wanted to check a couple things off their wish list, one of them being a bungalow. They asked a real estate agent to help them locate one, who showed up with pictures of a castle and a 15-bedroom stately home on a 250-acre property that came with an entire village.
"We can't afford it," Patrick told the agent.
"I thought you'd just won the Lottery," the agent questioned, confused at their initial reaction to seeing the extravagant estates.
"Yes, but we can't afford all the caps we'd have to buy just to get the villagers to doff their hats to us when we're driving through," Patrick replied.
According to the couple, the last thing they wanted was to own a village and "act like a lord and lady." Rather, they were looking for a welcoming, quiet home with enough room to house their grandchildren and the occasional guest. They decided on a five-bedroom brick house on a 5-acre plot, complete with a tennis court and swimming pool.
The Connollys also stayed true to their word about never losing sight of who they are. Despite having access to unrestricted wealth, their daughters drive secondhand cars. No need to be flashy, they said, whatever gets the job done. Patrick also shops at Debenhams, a department store, and frequently checks for discounts and vouchers.
"Our family and our friends have kept us very grounded," Frances reassured. "But we're fairly grounded people anyway, and we were comfortable before we won the lottery."
Frances continues to carry out acts of good will to this day. This past weekend at her and Patrick's five-bedroom home valued at £1.9 million (US$2.5 million), she helped wrap 1,000 presents containing various toiletries for those stuck in hospitals over Christmas. Additionally, she bought 30 computers, 20 laptops, and other tech accessories that would help youth caring for their ill or disabled parents over the holidays stay in touch with their other loved ones.
They even implemented an extra measure to allow them to continue giving even beyond their lifetimes. In the chance that they both pass away in the next six years, the insurance policy they took out will ensure that those who would have to pay tax on the money they received from the Connollys would never have to pay for it out of pocket.
Players in the UK will have a chance at scooping up their own EuroMillions jackpot worth a record €200 million (US$241.66 million) this Friday, Dec. 11. Frances had some advice for the newest winner-to-be in light of the COVID-19 pandemic: "COVID has taught us life is short. Make sure you enjoy it."
"Try and do as much good as you can as you go along and have a blast doing it. We did."