Shock, surprise, nerves and excitement spread across the faces of nine co-workers who picked up a $60 million cheque after winning the Lotto Max jackpot last year. After only a $5 investment each, life has drastically changed for these line workers at an auto parts manufacturer in Guelph, Ont.
“I almost didn’t hand over my $5 when it was time to buy our ticket,” group member Mercedes Granadino said. “But I had this sixth sense, like some spirit sitting on my shoulder telling me to play!”
Fernando Meneses was the first to find out about their big win, after Granadino heard on the radio that the winning ticket was sold in Guelph. One by one, the rest of the winning team was notified, culminating in a group meeting at a park where they all celebrated the win.
For Steven Rush from Guelph, he found out at about 11:00 p.m., after he had turned off his phone for the day. When he turned it on in the evening and it “blew up” with messages from Meneses. Rush called him back right away and was told the group would meet the next day.
“We were all excited, we didn’t know what to do,” Rush said. “I was overwhelmed, it just blew my mind, all the possibilities of the future were just there. I still can’t fathom the whole thing right now.”
The group has only played together for the last two months, but they have very specific criteria for playing the lottery.
“We only play if it’s $50 million plus, we want the big one!”Ala Hirmiz from Kitchenener, Ont. told reporters.
The entire group has resigned from their jobs but they all have a lot of different dreams to spend the money, including new houses, travel and cars, to just taking it easy and relaxing.
“Just play and then pray,” Granadino said.
“I’ve been in Canada for less than a year and so far I’ve only known work – I’m excited to explore the country,” Bassam Abdi from Kitchener said.
“I plan on buying a coconut plantation in Sri Lanka,” Sampath Pathiraja Mudiyansel from Guelph said in a a statement.
“It’s going to help my family, maybe bring [my brother and sister] here,” Granadino, originally from the Philippines, told Yahoo Canada News.
“I just want to stay home…in the 15 years I’ve been working I’ve never gotten vacation, never late, never missed any overtime,” Hirmiz added.
Both Granadino and Himiriz plan to stay in Guelph and Kitchener respectively. Granadino has been in Canada for about 11 years and Himiriz has been in Canada for 21 years, the last of his family to come to the country.
The group has 17 kids between them and eight members are immigrants from the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa.
The youngest member of the group, Ella Nicole Cabrera, is just 21 years old and only started working at the auto parts manufacturer about six months ago.. She was sleeping when Meneses initially called her, so she found out about the win when the group met at a park in Guelph. Cabrera says she’s still going to continue with her previous plan to go to school and study accounting, in addition to buying a house for herself and her parents.
“[My parents] couldn’t believe it, they were crying,” Cabrera said.
But for anyone who’s now contemplating testing their luck in the lottery, this group of winner says to take the chance. In fact, they even say they’ll still continue playing themselves.
“Just play and then pray,” Grandino said.
“How I look at the situation, this is the only chance we have to get money.” Hirmiz said. “This is the only way, if you are lucky, you’re going to get the chance to relax.”
The full list of Lotto Max winners are:
Ala Hirmiz of Kitchener
Fernando Meneses of Guelph
Bassam Abdi of Kitchener
Ella Nicole Cabrera of Guelph
Mercedes Granadino of Guelph
Mussie Kelete of Guelph
Sampath Pathiraja Mudiyansel of Guelph
Steven Rush of Guelph
Tariku Birru of Guelph