September 1990 made Florida Lotto History. Six lottery winners shared lottery biggest jackpot of $106,500,000. Each of the players was awarded with $17,750,000.
Another lottery record was made in September 1988 when Sheelah Ryan of Winter Springs has taken the largest Florida Lotto top prize of $55,160,000 granted to a single player. Her lucky numbers were 3, 5, 19, 20, 27 and 35.
It is generally believed that wealth makes generosity easy. You may have noticed though, that the less people own, the more eager they are to share their tiny little possessions with others. The lives of those who have very little apparently are not that focused on material possessions and they do not have fear of loss. The rich, on the other hand, are often spoilt by accumulation of wealth: it forces them to desire even more.
Most Florida lottery winners are tempted to buy sports cars, take trips to Europe or go on wild gambling binges in Las Vegas. On rear occasions, however, lottery winnings do bring out a philanthropic streak in people.
With her lotto prize, Ryan founded the Sheelah Ryan Foundation, a charity that supported many people around her place – elderly citizens, abused women along with those struggling to survive. Her charity also provided scholarships to local students offering them better development opportunities.
"Most people who come in always mention that they're going to donate money to their church or help neighbours or help their families," said Sheila Griffin, a spokeswoman for the Florida Lottery in Tallahassee. "We don't know anyone who has given at the level of Sheelah Ryan”.
A former real estate agent Ryan was a modest woman, she lived in a mobile home before she was awarded with the Florida lottery top prize. She was divorced and never had an opportunity to become a mother.
In 1994, at age 69, Ryan lost her fight with cancer. However, through the efforts of her family members, close friends and funds provided by her Florida lotto winnings, Ryan's philanthropic vision lives on.
"She is still making a difference in the community 15 years later," said Pamela Ohab, Ryan's former accountant and now president of the foundation.
The Sheelah Ryan charity, based in Winter Springs, grants about $200,000 annually to those in need, mainly in Seminole County.