Last May, 64 year-old Calgary resident Tom Crist was eating lunch in Palm Springs, California with a group of golf buddies. As they ate sandwiches in the club house and waited for their tee time, Tom’s cell phone rang. The call was coming from an unknown number in western Canada. It was probably a telemarketer, but Tom picked up the phone anyway just to be safe. It was not a telemarketer. Tom was greeted on the other end of the line by an official from the Western Canada Lottery Corporation. The official informed Tom that he had just won a $40 million Lotto Max jackpot. The largest jackpot anyone from Calgary had ever won. Instead of jumping up and down and screaming his lungs out with joy, Tom quietly finished his lunch and proceeded to play 18 holes. He never mentioned the news to any of his golf buddies.
Unlike most big lottery winners who spend days, or even months, trying to figure out how they’ll spend their newfound riches, Tom Crist needed only a moment to decide where his $40 million in winnings would go: all to charity.
His plan was to donate his winnings in honor of his wife Jan, who died in February of 2012 after a long battle with lung cancer.
His golf buddies weren’t the only ones who were kept in the dark. Tom didn’t even tell his own children until earlier this week when he shocked them with another announcement: Not only had he won $40 million in the lottery, he was going to give every cent away. “I knew where the money was going to go as soon as I got that call, I just didn’t want the media, the press, all that kind of stuff. So I just kept putting it off and putting it off, and putting it off.”
About The Picture
Finally, at the behest of the Western Canada Lottery Corp., he agreed to go public and have his photo taken. The fine print on the lottery subscription he bought required it.
The shy and retiring senior showed up for his win photo in dark glasses and a baseball cap. “They asked, ‘Is that your natural look?’ I said, yep. That’s all you’re getting. You’re not getting a smile, nothing.”
About His Kids
Tom informed his children that he was planning to put the money into family charity trust. Over the next few years, the family will meet and decide which charities need or deserve the money most. In honor of his late wife, cancer charities will hold a special place in Tom’s heart. At the top of his donation list are the Canadian Cancer Society and Calgary’s Tom Baker Cancer Centre. The Tom Baker Center is especially close to his heart because that’s where his wife was treated.
Giving It Away
Crist delivered his first big check — $1.2 million — on Tuesday to the Alberta Cancer Foundation, which collects donations for Calgary’s Tom Baker Cancer Centre, where Jan had been treated.
He strode into the ACF office, check in hand, without any prior warning, Phoebe Dey, a spokesperson for the foundation told NBC News.
“He surprised us,” Dey said. “He said that this is phase one of his gifts and that his intention with us was to make an annual gift. He stressed that this was just the beginning and that he intended to give away all $40 million.”
The donation, Dey said, “will go to enhance care for other patients. It will help an awful lot. He told us that he had been successful in life and already had enough money to take care of his family and that this is what his wife would have wanted. He was doing it in her name.”
Though Crist acknowledges that his actions may spark generosity in others, “I’m not doing it because it’s going to inspire somebody else, I’m doing it because that’s what my heart tells me to do.”
Thank you, Tom, for exemplifying the truth that enough really is enough.