Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative
Mary Van Den Berge is still in shock more than a week after winning the top prize – $1 million prize – in the London Dream Home lottery.
“I don’t feel any different. I am still me.”
Her and her late husband, Casey, have supported London’s Dream Home lottery since its inception in 1996. That first year the couple won a cordless phone. Two years ago, Casey was diagnosed with cancer and the couple would make the drive back and forth between Petrolia and London as he received treatment for three months before Casey passed.
The couple originally lived in St. Mary’s where they owned a retail store. They moved to Petrolia when they retired to be closer to their daughter and son-in-law, Katelyn and Shaun Bender.
On the morning of the draw, Dec. 21, Van Den Berge and her daughter were set to go to a fitness class at the YMCA in Petrolia. She had a feeling that morning and made sure to take her phone with her.
The class was at 9:15 am and the 50/50 draw was to take place at 9 am with the Dream draw set for 9:15 am.
When her phone rang at 9:13 am, her heart started beating faster.
“I just won,” she told her daughter. “Put this stuff away. We are going to London.” The pair did not stay for their class.
Van Den Berge had the choice of a 3,254 square foot home in Talbotville, a 2023 Ford F-150 and $750,000 in cash, a $250,000 gift certificate to Can-Am RV Centre or $1 million in cash, as the grand prize winner. She took the $1 million, noting only three winners have ever taken the home.
Her plans for the money including doing some renovations on her Petrolia home. “I want to make this house mine,” she said, as she has only lived in the house for a year. She will also share some of her winnings with her family.
“When you lose a partner, life is not about stuff. It is about experiences and memories,” said Van Den Berge. She is humbled by all the well wishes from people. “People are so kind.”
And while Van Den Berge has already won big, she’s also entered in the local hospital draw. She has bought a ticket to the Bluewater Health Foundation’s Dream Home Lottery to take place later in 2023, and she will be buying another ticket for the London Dream Lottery, as she feels it is important to provide support to the local hospitals.