The newest Mega Millions multi-millionaire is a 24-year-old mom from Mount Clemens, Michigan, who was working two jobs to help support her own baby son as well as the daughter of her 26-year-old boyfriend until she learned she was suddenly wealthy.
Kelsey Zachow pocketed about $26 million after paying taxes on her Mega Millions winnings from a ticket she bought in June — on Friday the 13th.
“Friday the 13th has always been a really lucky day for me,” said the young mom at a Thurdsay press conference in Sterling Springs, Michigan. “I went home that night and I’m like nothing really good happened. That’s weird.”
Of course, something good had happened. Something very good. One of the five Mega Millions tickets she bought that day at Sonny’s Mart in Mount Clemens matched all six numbers to win a jackpot that would have been worth $66 million had she chosen to take it divided into 30 annual payments.
Instead, Zachow took the lump sum option, which paid her $37.6 million before the taxman took his share.
But she didn’t find out until 11 days after buying the winning ticket, when she pulled into a gas station and asked the clerk to run her old tickets through a machine to see if there was anything there. Zachow had been a regular Mega Millions player for five years, but never won more than 50 bucks.
This time, however, the lady behind the cash register told her, “You won big.”
“I’m like, check it again,” Zachow recalled at the press conference. “She said, ‘No you won big.’ A big line behind me. They were all looking at me — ‘how much did you win?’ I got really nervous so I grabbed the ticket and I jumped in my car and locked the door. Checked again on my phone. I couldn’t breathe and I was driving home. Pulled in the driveway and ran out screaming. My boyfriend thought I got in a car accident, or hit someone on the street. It was crazy I couldn’t breathe. It was a lot to take in.”
Though she’s known she was a Mega Millions multimillionaire for the past month, and even people around town got word, she took her time coming forward.
“I wanted to be smart with it. I’ve been playing for five years so I kinda had a plan if I ever did win,” Zachow said. “People go bankrupt and lose it all. So, financial advisor, lawyer, taxes — just getting everything straight beforehand. We have our ducks in a row and now we can have fun.”
Zachow said she plans to use her Mega Millions winnings to set up college finds for her child and her boyfriend’s child, as well as for her own younger brother. She also plans to travel to Ireland, the family home of her boyfriend, Billy Bartlett. And this being Detroit, she of course plans to buy a new car.