Grand Prize Winner: “It’s really starting to sink in now”

“It’s for a great cause and I believe in it.”

He had the date marked on his calendar, and he was planning to watch Global’s Noon News Hour just in case.

But when the Grand Prize Draw came and went, Vancouver realtor George Villanueva was on the tennis court. He hopped in the pool and hit the spa, and that’s when his life changed forever.

“I kinda forgot about (the draw),” he said on Monday, just after picking up his cheque for $2.1 million. “When I was downstairs in the spa, I noticed my phone was blowing up. I said, ‘What’s going on?'”

George had quite a few missed calls and texts, and it’s no doubt why – he had just been announced on live television as the winner of the 2017 Hometown Heroes Lottery’s Grand Prize Draw, and had no idea until date, the time, and his cellphone’s popularity started to click.

“Everybody said, ‘Did you buy a ticket?’ And then I remembered, the draw’s today.”

Thoughts like It can’t be, it can’t be slowly evolved into maybe it’s real, maybe it’s real. And it was.

“It’s starting to sink in,” he said this week, 11 days after his big win.

“I usually (buy) at the beginning… I tried the 50/50 and the (Daily Cash Plus). I buy a little bit of everything. I know it helps everybody, and you do want to win something.

“It’s fun… it’s real now, I see the cheque. It’s really starting to sink in now.”

George chose to select the $2.1 million cash prize, which was one of six Grand Prize options this year – others included dream home packages in South Surrey and White Rock, Vancouver, Kelowna, and on Vancouver Island at SookePoint.

He has no major immediate plans for the money – he says first, he’ll speak with his bank manager and pay off some “obvious bills” like property taxes and credit cards.

“I’ll slow it down and make it last and help the people I love.”

George says he’s even buying for quite a few years, and he truly believes the lottery is a win-win – you’re playing to win some great prizes and, win or lose, you’re helping a great cause. (The Hometown Heroes Lottery ticket proceeds raise funds for VGH + UBC Hospital Foundation and the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn fund.)

“It’s for a great cause and I believe in it,” he said. “I buy it as a duty and as a charitable fund. Because that other part is there, that you could win something, it’s nice… I always feel good that I win something good, I’m helping.

“I wish I could do more but this is the little I can do, and that’s how we’ve seen it.”

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