Manitoba lottery winners quietly spread holiday cheer

Generous spirits from Sagkeeng First Nation have been riding a wave of post-Christmas philanthropy — virtually wiping out the debt of Winnipeg's Christmas Cheer Board and apparently visiting other charitable causes in the Manitoba capital.

Lottery millionaires Marie and Kirby Fontaine gave the Christmas Cheer Board a cheque for $50,000 Thursday afternoon, said board director Kai Madsen.

Madsen said the Fontaines called after hearing media reports that the cheer board was left with a shortfall of roughly $60,000 in the aftermath of the agency's annual campaign of delivering Christmas gift hampers to the city's needy.

"They said we're going to come by and fix that," Madsen told CBC, adding no one at the charity was certain it was Fontaines who telephoned.

Then, out of the blue, the couple who won $50 million in a Lotto 6/49 draw in 2009, showed up at the Cheer Board offices. "I was all choked up," when the generous couple offered a cheque to cover the bulk of the shortfall, said Madsen.

"It was nice to be able to hug and shake hands and feel the warmth and generosity of someone," said Madsen. "It was a very special day."

He said that in the 40 years he's been involved with the board he's never seen an individual gift so large.

Madsen said he understood the Fontaines were planning to visit other worthy causes in the Winnipeg area.

Kirby Fontaine spent his last $10 on a lottery ticket in 2009 when the couple won the big prize: $50 million. Since then the publicity-shy Fontaines have donated to a number of good causes around Manitoba — often with little or no fanfare.

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