It was an exciting April Fool’s for Chawathil’s Thelma Florence, with a surprise that was definitely no prank.
After much buzzing and speculation in Hope about who won the grand prize, Florence is the winner of the BCLC’s Lotto 6/49’s Guaranteed Prize of $1 million draw that took place on April 1.
“I thought, ‘Is this real? Me? Really?’’’ Florence said in a press release. “I sent a screenshot of the app into the family group chat and everyone wondered if it was a late April Fools’ Day joke.”
Florence, who lives in Hope, said she bought her ticket at Bee’s Food Market, a local convenience store in Hope located next to the Standard. On the night when it was announced that someone in Hope had won, Florence said she was scared of checking the ticket and getting her hopes up for nothing. Despite this, the next morning while in Merritt visiting her nephew, Florence found herself in shock when she realized she had the winning ticket; using the BCLC Lotto! App she learned that was indeed the winner.
“When I heard that Hope had a winner, I thought about my ticket. And, I didn’t want to check it because I was scared if I didn’t win that I was gonna cry,” Florence laughed. “I tried to check it early but they said it was, ‘too soon. You got to check it in the morning,’ and they said that all they knew was that the winner was in Hope. So, I checked it online on my phone. I had my ticket there and I scanned it. And it showed I was the winner.
“I couldn’t believe it. I told my daughter, ‘It’s me! I’m the winner!’”
Florence said she wanted to verify that her win was real. When she got back to Hope, she went to Bee’s again to have the ticket checked. After it was confirmed by the cashier that she had indeed won, Florence said she was happy and excited for herself and her family. And she’s happy that she was able to get the winning ticket from her hometown of Hope.
“I love Hope. It’s my hometown. Even if I went to a residential school, my band is in Hope,” Florence said. “So that’s always been my home and I have a lot of good memories with my family here. And I think I would say Hope’s a good place. Like a lot of people will say, ‘Oh, it’s a good place.’ And I agree.”
Florence, who is a survivor of St. Mary’s Mission and Residential School, is the mother of two daughters (which includes Chawathil Coun. Monica Florence), the grandmother of five grandchildren, and the great-grandmother of three. Originally an employee of her band, she has been retired for 23 years and spends her days with her family, doing work on her home, watching movies, sewing, and playing bingo. She also helps her daughter out as a part-time homemaker.
As a survivor, who was at St. Mary’s for 11 years, Florence said it’s important for her to let people know what happened.
“I do tours there [St. Mary’s]. And I go to schools and talk about my experience there. There may be survivors who don’t want to share and don’t want to talk. But I do,” Florence said. “I still pray. And I’ll go to church, but I pray. And I’m learning more of my culture and that’s helping. The singing and drumming is really important to me.”
Part of her plan for the money, aside from putting half in savings, is using it to buy herself and her grandchildren cars, as well as doing repairs and renovations to her home. Another part involves planning a few trips for herself and her family.
“I think we might go to Hawaii. I’d love to go to Hawaii. At this time it’s not so hot, it would be just nice,” Florence said. “The other place, and I went there a few years ago, was Las Vegas. I wouldn’t mind going there again.
“Other than that, I’m not sure. We’ll see if we travel anywhere else.”
In addition to traveling, and spending the money on herself and her family, Florence said she is also looking forward to the Peters’ Family Memorial Ball tournament, which her family puts on every year.
“I’m really happy that it’s 30 years,” she said. “This is our 30th year this summer. And every summer we have so many teams coming in. So, this will really help us.”
As Florence bought the winning ticket at Bee’s, BCLC will be arranging for free 6/49 tickets to be given out at the store on April 26 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free to the public and everyone is encouraged to attend.