Mark Miller is not a lottery winner.
In fact, he did not even buy a ticket for the 2020 Tri-Hospital Dream Lottery, which boasts a grand prize package valued over $1.5 million or $1.2 million cash.
Instead, that winning ticket — number 2008558 — was sold to Mark Miller (no relation).
And that is where the confusion began.
“I got a phone call from somebody I work with, and he says, ‘this is a weird question, but did you buy a St. Boniface lottery ticket?” the non-winning Miller recalled.
“I was sure that I didn’t. But he says ‘maybe you should triple check because Mark Miller from Winnipeg, Manitoba won the grand prize.”
Thus began a six-hour roller coaster of emotion, where Miller was “pretty sure” his life had changed in a big way.
“I was definitely in shock. I kept dropping everything I touched. I was shaking,” Miller says.
“I pretty much couldn’t carry on with my day until I knew that wasn’t me.”
Despite not actually having bought a ticket, Miller thought it possible his parents may have purchased the ticket on his behalf without telling him.
So he picked up the phone and began calling his family members; first his brother, then his sister and his mother, but no one would answer.
“I thought they were maybe putting up the banners or something.”
It was a funny coincidence for Vince Barletta, president and CEO of the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, who pulled the winning ticket at the draw on Wednesday.
“I pulled the ticket and the name was Mark Miller, and right after that I said to myself ‘I bet you there’s more than one Mark Miller in town,” Barletta says.
“With a common name like Mark Miller there may have been more than one out there wondering if they had the lucky ticket this year.”
There was no confusion, however, for the “real” Mark Miller, who received a voicemail message from Barletta a little later that day.
“I said, ‘Mark, this is St. Boniface Hospital Foundation calling on behalf of the Tri-Hospital Dream Lottery. I really think you’re going to want to call me back, I’ve got some really exciting news for you,” Barletta says.
Some winners take some convincing, Barletta says, but Mark was “surprised, but one of these guys that believed it right away, and it’s fantastic, it’s great to make somebody a millionaire with this lottery.”
And despite eventually cluing in to the fact his life was going to remain mostly the same as it was before, non-winning Miller remains in good spirits.
“In a way I’m pretty lucky because if that was me I probably would have ended up in the exact same hospital, either from shock or some horrible accident,” Miller says.
“I’m saving up to put a down payment on my first home and I think it would be more satisfying to use money that I saved.”
Miller adds he plans on buying a ticket for next year’s draw, just in case.
“My advice to Mark Miller would be absolutely get your tickets for the next lottery, there’s no reason we can’t have two Mark Millers in a row,” Barletta says.
This year’s main draw sold out of all 64,000 tickets, according to Barletta.
The proceeds from the lottery are shared between three hospital foundations: The Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, Health Sciences Centre Foundation and St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.
Prizes range from travel vouchers, to motorcycles, vehicles, a home or cottage or cash.