President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation Michelle Campbell, President & CEO of London Health Sciences Foundation John MacFarlane, and Vice Chair of Children’s Health Foundation Elana Johnson announced the winners of the fall edition of the Dream Lottery, January 10, 2019. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Leamington woman wins Dream Lottery

Disbelief quickly turned into excitement for the two big winners of London’s Dream Lottery.

Mary Defrancisco of Leamington held the winning grand prize ticket for the semi-annual sweepstakes. She will now have her choice of a fully furnished, $1.8 million two-storey home in southwest London, a luxury downtown condo in the Tricar Azure tower with $500,000 cash, or $1million cash.

The exterior of the Dream Lottery home on 7375 Silver Creek Circle. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

The Dream Lottery home on 7375 Silver Creek Circle.

Lottery organizers announced the grand prize winner Thursday morning from inside the luxury home on Silver Creek Circle. By mid-morning, they had delivered the good news to Defrancisco by phone.

“I can’t believe it, I’m feeling so blessed, this is news of a lifetime,” said Defrancisco, after lottery organizers assured her the win was real and not a “bad joke” as she initially feared.

Defrancisco’s past efforts to win big through the lottery had never paid off and that losing streak nearly led her to not purchase a ticket this time around. Ultimately, she opted to buy the ticket if for no other reason than to support London’s hospitals, which receive the proceeds from the lottery.

Heather Whyte of Breslau won the 50/50 draw and will take home $439,927.50. When told of her win by phone, Whyte was also skeptical.

“I feel like I’m being pranked,” Whyte told lottery officials before accepting the news as fact. “Oh my goodness…I have no words. I don’t know what to say. This is amazing.”

She ended the minute and a half long call by expressing her thanks for the health care system in the region and the work that is done at the three hospitals.

Since launching in 1996, the lottery has raised a net total of over $34.6-million in support of the London Health Sciences Centre, Children’s Hospital, and St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

Michelle Campbell, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, noted the money is what is considered “unrestrictive dollars” and gives the hospitals the flexibility to explore new technologies, purchase new equipment and fund innovative research.

“One example of that at St. Joseph’s is the application of virtual reality technology in our recreation program at Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care,” said Campbell. “Bringing virtual reality in with a senior population is going to allow our rec team to take them to the Caribbean, to Europe, to really help them explore what opportunities technology has for them. That is a real innovation in long term care that simply would not happen were it not for the Dream Lottery.”

She believes there are two sides to the lottery that keep those across the region excited to support it year-after-year.

“There is the side with the prizes and the winning and getting to tell people they have won a prize which can be very life changing depending on which prize they win,” said Campbell. “The other side is everybody wins because the monies all stay in London. The money helps the frontline of care in our community.”

The names of major prize winners are posted online at www.dreamitwinit.ca and a printed list of winners is also available upon request by calling 1-866-319-9818.

Preparations for the spring edition of the lottery, which will launch in March, are already underway.