“It’s like a Christmas that we’re definitely never going to forget.”

At Harmon Dental Center in Louisville, Kentucky, an unassuming holiday gift exchange changed one employee’s life. 

To the surprise of everyone, the office manager Lori Janes, won a $175,000 lottery ticket at the party this past holiday season. According to Today, the party wasn’t even supposed to happen. 

“This was the first year we decided to do this,” Lori explains. 

On December 13, all of the employees gathered in the office for a small celebration and exchanged gifts. Apparently, there were a few ground rules set up that ended up altering the course of events pretty significantly.

Janes told Today, “I’m like, ‘OK, that’s great, I was kind of the last one to go in there. And they’re like, ‘Pick your number and then we’re going to eat and then we’re going to start having our little Santa exchange, where we have rules that we put in place.'”

She Picked the Lucky Number

With 12 others participating,  everyone picked a number to see who got to choose a gift first from the pile that everyone contributed to. The only rule was that each gift can only be ‘stolen’ twice. That is, after someone selects a gift, someone else can use their turn to ‘steal’ it from them.

After that, the final recipient can open it. Janes says she drew number four and the person who drew number nine stole her initial gift that she was excited about, a $50 gift card to TJ Maxx. Janes then stole five scratch-off lottery tickets from someone else, not expecting much. 

Janes recalls, “Dr. Harmon’s wife was like, ‘Lori, that’s dead now because no one else gets to take that from you.’ I’m like, ‘Really?’ They’re like, ‘Start scratching off!’ Well, I will tell you what, I hit on every one of those tickets.”

Janes explained that she started to get a good feeling about the tickets after she saw two of the five numbers on the card– 2 and 14– and noticed they were the birthdays of her husband and daughter, Dec. 2 and 14 respectively.

She was happy when the first few tickets showed a winning of just $50, after she had her earlier gift ‘stolen’. “I was so happy with my $50, like I never win on scratch,” she says. “I was like, ‘Well, now I get to go spend $50 at TJ Maxx,’ right because I’m thinking in my head [my coworker] stole my gift card.”

Money for Her Children’s Education

The last scratch ended up being worth $175,000.

Janes describes the residual effects of the winning, telling Today “It’s been a whirlwind, I swear for that whole week, every time I talked about it, I was crying. It still didn’t seem real.”

She waited about four days to take the money to the bank, and once she did that the win started to feel real. 

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Janes says her co-worker Michelle is the one who brought the scratch-offs to the office holiday exchange, a tradition from her late mother. Apparently Michelle didn’t have time to go to the store to pick up a gift card, so she went to her trusted lottery cards. In another lucky twist of fate, she “didn’t get the one she wanted,” settling for the eventual winner after initially seeking a more Christmas themed ticket. 

Immediately after winning, Janes called her husband, who she met in high school. The high-school sweethearts share two children together, and perhaps no one was as excited as they were. Janes shared that the winnings will largely go towards their college educations, but revealed that it would also help sweeten that upcoming Christmas a bit, as well.

“A big chunk of it will just be really for school for my kids, which will be amazing,” she says. “They were already crying and this year I got to give them some cash at Christmas and you should see the looks on their faces. It was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ super cool moment. It’s big.”

An Unforgettable Christmas

“Whatever you may have been wanting, I want you to be able to get it,” Janes recalls telling her kids. “This might be the only time that I would ever be able to say that to your kids when you’re not on a specific budget.”

Janes says this Christmas went down in the history books for her.

“Just to be able to do that extra was really cool,” she says. “So it’s like a Christmas that we’re definitely never going to forget.”


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