|For Immediate Release||Contact: Mike Lang 217-524-5158|
AUBURN, IL—March 14, 2013—Like many people, Ryan Kreoger doesn’t make a big deal about his birthday, which is March 5. That day, Kreoger went about his daily routine, putting in a full day’s work as a TV/internet installer for New Wave Communications. He wasn’t expecting a special dinner, an expensive gift, or even a cake—since his wife Heather had made him a birthday cake the previous weekend. What he ended up with, however, is a life-changing Lottery prize, courtesy of the Illinois Lottery’s ‘Birthday Surprise” instant game.
Ryan’s birthday odyssey began at the end of his birthday-workday, when he visited the Casey’s General Store on Route 4 in Auburn and purchased three Lottery instant tickets, one of which was the new, $5 Birthday Surprise game. He scratched the three tickets in the store, and, on the single “Birthday Surprise” ticket he bought because it was his birthday, discovered he had won one of two grand prizes: a $150,000 cash gift from the Lottery that will be delivered every year in time for his March 5 birthday!
After confirming the win with excited Casey’s employees—and signing the back of the ticket—Ryan, 31, drove a New Wave Communications van to nearby Girard, where he lives with wife, Heather, whom he married just five months ago. Heather, 32, didn’t initially believe the life-changing news presented by her sometimes playful husband. Examining the ticket and lottery-terminal receipt convinced Heather it was true, eliciting gasps of joy, a few tears, and the realization that the newly-constituted family would be financially secure for at least 20 years.
“Winning this prize didn’t make us rich,” said Heather, a frugal homemaker. “It made it so we can comfortably take care of our family. That’s all we’ve ever prayed for,” she said, adding that the Kreogers plan to give some of the winnings to their church to assist in doing “God’s work.” “We are going to meet with a financial planner and a lawyer,” said Ryan. “We want to make this money work for us and get the most out of it,” he said.
Prior to winning the Lottery, the couple did not own a car. Instead, they would occasionally borrow a car from one of several family members who live in the area. The Lottery win enabled the couple to go car shopping the day after their win, when they purchased two used vehicles from the Freedom car dealership in Virden: a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country minivan for Heather, and a 2006 Dodge Dakota that Ryan will use primarily for weekend hunting excursions.
The day after Ryan’s win started with the couple traveling to Springfield to present the winning Birthday Surprise ticket to Lottery officials. When asked where he kept the ticket the night before, Ryan said he kept it in his jeans pocket—and wore his jeans to bed that night.
“Birthday Surprise is one of the new breed of instant games offered by the Illinois Lottery: a beautiful ticket, designed by VSA partners in Chicago, with an equally beautiful prize of $150,000 instantly plus $150,000 a year for 20 years on your birthday,” said Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones. “The game was developed by Northstar’s marketing director, Francesco Parola. It’s the most popular new instant game we have had in years, and having the first grand-prize winner win on his birthday proves once again that anything’s possible.”
Family and friends crowded into the Auburn Route 4 Casey’s today, and witnessed Lottery Superintendent Jones as he presented Ryan a two-foot-tall birthday card that replicates the Birthday Surprise instant game. Inside the huge card were 20 oversized checks that represent the 20 future birthday payments that Ryan will receive.
A sheet cake bearing an image of the instant game was on hand to enjoy, as were dozens of rainbow-glazed cake doughnuts supplied by the Auburn Casey’s store, which was decorated with bouquets of colorful Lottery balloons in honor of the special occasion. About a dozen friends and relatives attended the celebration, including Ryan’s and Heather’s parents, all four of whom live in the area.
Ryan’s prize will be paid in 21 annual installments of $150,000. He will receive the first, “instant” payment in about a week, with the 20 future payments delivered annually near the end of February. After required federal and state tax withholding, each annual payment will total $105,000. The 21 payments, before withholding, total $3.15 million.
Thanks to the Lottery win, Ryan and Heather are now shopping for a larger home in Girard. Their current two-bedroom home, which Heather grew up in, is too small for the couple and the three children, ages 9 to 12, who live with them. Ryan has two other children from a previous marriage who will also benefit from the Lottery win.
The $5 Birthday Surprise game launched last October. It contains over $34 million in total prize money. On average, 1 in 3.9 tickets win a cash prize in the Birthday Surprise game. For selling the winning ticket, the Auburn Casey’s will receive a bonus of $31,500, equal to 1 percent of the total prize amount.
About Illinois Lottery
Founded in 1974, the Illinois Lottery has contributed $17.5 billion to the state Common School Fund to assist K-12 public schools, as well as the Capital Projects Fund. Players must be at least 18 years old.