Chicago Ridge woman a Merry Millionaire winner
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org December 13, 2012 2:54PM
Updated: January 15, 2013 11:31AM
Kathy Kamba looks forward to playing the Illinois Lottery’s Merry Millionaire game each year.
The seasonal ticket doesn’t come cheap with its $20 price tag. But the potential payoff — three winners can claim $1 million each — is worth the investment, she said. So on Nov. 19, while Kamba, 60, of Chicago Ridge, was driving to her job in Tinley Park, she stopped to buy lottery tickets at Ridgeland Citgo, 12100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights.
“I always buy my tickets there,” she said.
The bright green Merry Millionaire ticket in the automated machine caught her eye. She had cashed in some winners and had an extra $20 burning a hole in her pocket.
Moments later, while sitting in her 2000 Toyota Rav4, she learned she had won $1 million.
“I was shocked,” Kamba said.
“I just get my lottery tickets there. The gas is too expensive,” said Kamba, who now can afford a fill-up or two.
The store’s owner gets a $10,000 bonus for selling the ticket, lottery officials said.
Except for calling her three sisters with the big news, Kamba managed to keep her $1 million haul a secret for a while. Eventually, coworkers and friends learned Kamba was a big winner.
Kamba works in the billing department at Orland Toyota in Tinley Park, and spends $20 to $50 a week on lottery tickets, she said.
At the car dealership Thursday, she received the ceremonial oversized $1 million check from lottery officials. She’ll use part of the money to buy a 2012 Toyota Rav4 to replace her current vehicle. The new ride has a suggested price of $33,000, but she’ll get an employee discount, officials said.
Rather than take the full $1 million via yearly annuity payouts of $50,000 for 20 years, Kamba chose the lump-sum prize, which, after taxes, leaves her with $420,000.
She is thinking about buying a new townhouse or condo, and will save some money, she said.
Co-workers cheered when the faux check was presented.
“Everyone at work is so happy about it,” said Kamba, who plans to keep working at Orland Toyota, where her new blizzard pearl-colored car was topped with a huge red bow for Thursday’s news conference.
General sales manager Hector Torres said he was “very happy” for Kamba. So are her sisters — Diane Lysik, Vickie McCabe and Sandy McCabe — who attended the news conference.
“I’m excited. It couldn’t happen to a nicer person,” Lysik said.
Kamba soon will take her sisters out for a fancy dinner at Shaw’s Crab House to celebrate.
“She won’t change at all. She’s down to earth. And $420,000 isn’t a lot of money. You buy a car, buy a house, there’s not a lot left,” Sandy McCabe said.
They won’t be surprised if Kamba, who seven years ago won a Hawaiian vacation from the Illinois Lottery, continues her winning ways this weekend. She’s leaving Friday for Las Vegas, Lysik said.
Kamba, who is divorced and has no children, calls herself “a South Side girl.” She grew up in Chicago’s Gresham neighborhood, lived in the 5800 block of Albany Avenue, and graduated from Gage Park High School.