Every year, the chance of winning the lottery is roughly one in 292 billion. Despite those odds, millions of people play. Winners may hope to buy luxury cars, an extended vacation, or a bigger house with their earnings. But when one small-town couple from Missouri won the lottery, they didn’t do any of that.
The way this couple spent their money changed many lives. How did the lottery change their own lives? What didn’t it change? Find out by reading this moving story.
A Humble Missouri Family
Mark Hill, 52, and Cindy Hill, 51, are residents of Dearborn, Missouri. Thirty miles northwest of Kansas City, the small town is home to 496 people. Mark and Cindy Hill are parents to a six-year-old daughter, Jade, whom they adopted from China. Their three sons, aged 28, 30, and 31, moved out years ago.
As long-time Dearborn residents, the Hills lived a humble life. They never anticipated that they would overcome one-in-175 million odds.
Not So Well-Off
In Dearborn, the average annual income is around $22,885. But the Hills struggled to make even that. Mark Hill worked at a hot dog and deli packaging factory as a mechanic. Cindy worked as an office manager until she was laid off in 2010.
Having only one source of income for the family made life hard. Cindy kept an eye out for job opportunities, but leaving their daughter alone during a crucial point in her life wasn’t an option.
Struggles With Money
Although the Hills didn’t make much money, Cindy opted to stay home and take care of Jade, who was four at the time. During those couple of years, Cindy also took a part-time job as a waitress to put food on the table.
Although the Hills didn’t have to pay for their sons anymore, they still struggled to support their daughter. They had lived in Dearborn for years, but Cindy’s lost job took a toll on the family.
The Decision Of A Lifetime
In November 2012, Cindy made a decision that would change the lives of a lot of people. She stopped at a Trex Mart in the late afternoon. Seeing that the lottery offered a $587.5 million jackpot, she bought five tickets.
At the time, the lottery was the largest in American history. It was, to this day, the most massive win in Missouri. But Cindy understood that her chances were slim, and she didn’t get her hopes up.
An Afterthought Of A Buy
Cindy didn’t spend a lot on lottery tickets. Her five numbers came out to $10. Instead of choosing her lucky numbers, Cindy let the machine choose for her. She bought these tickets casually, without a strategy that some other buyers use.
Cindy even forgot about the numbers for a while. In her words, “I stuck it in my car, and they stayed there all night.” She had no idea that these numbers would become so important.
Like many other people who purchase lottery tickets, Cindy didn’t have much hope that they would win. The night before the winning numbers were announced, Cindy told her daughter that they wouldn’t win. “That probably never happens,” she reportedly told Jade.
The next day, Cindy stopped by the convenience store after dropping her daughter off at school. She checked the winning numbers report, and then examined the tickets in her car. The unexpected had happened.
The Win That Changed Their Lives
When Cindy saw that she had the winning lottery number, she doubted her judgment. “I called my husband and told him, ‘I think I am having a heart attack,'” Cindy told ABC News. “I think we just won the lottery!”
Cindy enlisted the help of her husband and mother-in-law, Shirley. The trio double-checked the winning numbers–5, 23, 16, 22, and 29–and confirmed that they matched up. The couple couldn’t believe that their life had changed with six numbers.
Finally Catching A Break
The Hills had won half of the lottery money, totaling to $293,750,000. Cindy and Mark’s financial troubles vanished in one afternoon. Media soon caught wind and called the couple “the Hillionaires.”
With more support money, Mark could finally catch a break from his job. Cindy would no longer have to seek out part-time gigs all the time, and Jade had a college fund. But that wasn’t the end of the Hills’ emotional story. What would they do with the money?
Three Months Later
Months after the Hills won the lottery, Mark still met his friends for coffee at a local convenience store. Although he initially expressed interest in buying his dream car, a red Camaro, he never did. He kept his old pick-up truck and lived in the same town.
Beyond quitting his job, Mark Hill’s life hadn’t changed on the surface. His family lived in the same house and had no fancy cars. So where did all their money go?
Spending A Fortune On Sewage
The Hills remained busy after winning the lottery. First, Mark Hill focused on his hometown of Camden Point, Missouri. He and Cindy donated $50,000 toward a sewage treatment plant.
While this might sound strange to outsiders, it would change residents’ lives. The citizens of Camden Point had to use individual septic tanks for sewage. This new plan would place sewage away from traffic, and residents would no longer have to keep septic tanks on their property.
A Greater Impact Than Anticipated
When the Hills received their lottery winnings, they pledged to give back to the community. Although some lottery winners would buy an island or build a big house, the Hills preferred to keep their modest lifestyle and focus on bettering the lives of others.
Mayer Kevin Boydston of Camden Point said that the lottery could not have gone to a kinder couple. “They are giving back to the community, just like they said they would,” he explained.
The Hillionaires’ Plans
After Mark announced his lottery winnings on Facebook, the family received a lot of attention. However, the Hills didn’t express many selfish requests. According to Cindy, the couple considered adopting another child.
Beyond that, the Hills said that they would give a lot of the money away. “For some reason, [God] put it in our hands,” Cindy said. “I think to make sure it goes to the right things.” And they did good things with it.
Providing An Ambulance
Along with a sewage plan, the Hills donated $3 million to the fire department of Dearborn. With this donation, the firemen could build a new, larger station in Camden Point, which would provide room for an ambulance.
“How many towns of 500 people have an ambulance service that’s manned 24-7? Very few,” Mark Hills told KMBC. “I’m proud to be a part of that.” Mark, whose parents had been saved twice by firefighters, wanted to return the favor.
Paying 25 Years’ Worth In One Day
Walt Stubbs, chief of Dearborn’s volunteer fire department, told HuffPost that the new station would have hardly paid for itself in tax money. “If we had to do it ourselves, it would take 25 years,” he admitted.
The new station wouldn’t just be four times bigger than the previous one. It would also connect to the main roads and highways, which would provide faster relief to those in danger. Before, the nearest ambulance was nearly a half-hour away.
Returning To Their Roots
The Hills then aimed to help their old high school. Since Mark and Cindy met at North Platte High School, they wanted to keep it healthy for future high school sweethearts. They funded a scholarship for Dearborn’s talented students.
With the Hills’ help, North Platte soon had enough money to function healthily again. Along with providing relief for Dearborn’s students, the Hills set aside college funds for their nieces, nephews, and adoptive daughter. In essence, they sent several students to university.
A New Baseball Field
Along with providing a scholarship fund, the Hills donated enough money to build a new baseball field for the Camden school district. The school district had planned to place this new baseball field away from traffic to give the students a better experience.
The Hills donated over $50,000 toward this new field. At this point, Mayor Kevin Boydston was very thankful to the Hills. They provided years’ worth of donations to the Missouri education system.
Staying True To Themselves
After the Hills won, their son, Jason, expressed that he hoped they’d remain themselves. “I hope we all stay very grounded, stay humble, and don’t forget who we are,” he said. After all, many lottery winners immediately opt for a luxurious life.
Mark’s mother, Shirley, believes that the Hills have remained true to themselves, despite the life-changing amount of money. “I’m real proud of them,” she told HuffPost. “They have stayed grounded. That’s their nature.”
Spoiling Themselves A Little Bit
Although the Hills have directed much of their winnings toward donations, they still spent some money on themselves. According to Shirley, the couple had been struggling financially before the win. Mark managed to quit his job and live comfortably.
Although the Hills didn’t buy a Camaro for Mark or a pony for Jade, they still did some traveling. They took their daughter to the beach, which had been a long-time dream of hers and was a fun vacation for the family.
Leaving Home For A While
“We were blessed before we ever won this,” Cindy said in an interview. Even so, the lottery allowed the Hills to fulfill their long-time dreams of traveling. “We want to go back to China,” Cindy said. Their adoptive daughter, Jade, is from China.
The Hills also wanted to visit Ireland, since they’re of Irish descent. The couple could also visit their kids more often. Beyond that, Cindy said that the family would travel “wherever the wind takes us.”
The Trex Mart Got Rewarded, Too
Did you know that the store that sells the winning lottery ticket gets rewarded? In the Hills’ case, this would be the Trex Mart gas station. They received $50,000. Lowell Hartell, the store’s owner, said that the money would contribute to Christmas bonuses for employees.
On top of that, Trex Mart received $27,000 in ticket sales after the Hills’ win. “It’s been insane,” said employee Kelly Blount. “I would never have thought we would have sold the winning ticket.”
Everyone Knew The Couple’s Generosity
Those who knew the Hills were not surprised to see them donating so much of their winnings. “Money changes a lot of people,” said Stubbs. But the Hills “are just good people and are willing to help others.”
“I’ve said all along that these lottery winnings could not have gone to a better couple,” added Mayor Boydston. He was right; their donations would change the community forever. Their winnings also put Dearborn and Camden Point on the map for tourists.
But The Attention Also Caused Trouble
Although the lottery win made life easier in some aspects, it caused trouble in other ways. After announcing his newly-acquired money on Facebook, Mark received hundreds of friend requests. He only posted it to assuage rumors that were circulating in the small town.
With all the news coverage, the Hills had plenty of curious people look into how they spent their money. According to the couple, some people have even sneaked into the family’s backyard.
Most Winners Aren’t This Responsible
Don McNay, an author who studied lottery winners for over 30 years, says that the Hills are “beyond exception.” Most lottery winners don’t donate that much of their earnings, and a few even squander them.
According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 70% of people who win a large amount of money lose it all within a few years. For example, Jack Whittaker, already a millionaire before willing a $315 million lottery in 2002, went bankrupt four years later.
The Hills Could Receive Ten Years Of Comfort
Despite the stories of winners quickly squandering their savings, the Hills have a solid shot at long-term satisfaction. According to a 2018 study, large monetary winnings generally provide “overall life satisfaction.” This satisfaction usually lasts for around ten years before dropping.
According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, winners who don’t squander their earnings live well. Researchers found that people who win large sums of money often remain wealthier than before, even after ten years.
In Return For Their Kindness
Because the Hills had sacrificed some of their wealth for the community, residents at Camden Point decided to honor them. On July 16th, 2016, the Camden Point Fire Department dedicated its newest building to Mark and Cindy Hill.
Inside the building, open space was made available for locals to visit and learn about the Hills’ generosity. Of course, the Hills were thankful, but they never made a huge fuss about it. They never expected a reward for their kindness.
Tragic News For The Family
Sadly, the Hills’ joy would not last forever. On March 15th, 2019, Mark Hill passed away. He was 59 years old. He left behind his wife, four children, and six grandchildren. Before he died, Mark’s father passed away as well.
The Hill family conducted a private service for Mark. His legacy stays cemented in the Camden Point community. The family requested that, instead of flowers, mourners could donate funds to the Camden Point Fire Department.
Their Legacy Lives On
Although Mark Hill passed away, his generosity lives on through his wife and all the lives he influenced. “He’s worked hard all his life,” his son Jason said after the Hills won the lottery. That hard work and selflessness put Dearborn on the map and reminded everyone what genuine kindness is.
Members of the Camden Point Fire Department will never forget the Hills. “I mean, his generosity just knows no bounds,” board president Steve Flock said about Mark. “It’s just an amazing family.”