06/07/2009 at 12:55 AM EDT
Neal Wanless, a 23-year-old South Dakota rancher from one of the poorest areas of the country, has won one of the biggest lottery jackpots in U.S. lottery history – a $232.1 million Powerball prize.
Having worked extremely hard to help his family make ends meet, Wanless intends to spend his new winnings by repaying the kindness neighbors have shown them and giving some of the winnings to charity.
“My family has been helped by the community and I intend to repay that help many times over,” Wanless told reporters at a Powerball lottery ceremony Friday. Wanless’s family has been struggling to stay afloat by selling scrap metal, which has been difficult with the falling price of iron in rural Todd County, the nation’s seventh-poorest county in 2007, according to the Census Bureau.
The single rancher, who lives with his mother and father on the family’s 320-acre ranch raising cattle, sheep and horses near Mission, S.D., will take home a lump sum of $88.5 million after taxes. He also plans to spend to his newfound fortune wisely and would like to buy a little more land. “It’d be nice if we go for a longer ride than usual on a bigger ranch of our own,” Wanless said he confided in his horse Eleanor after learning he'd won the lottery.
Wanless, who picked the numbers of his family’s birthdays, bought $15 worth of tickets at a convenience store in a neighboring town called Winner during a trip to buy livestock feed a month ago.
“I want to thank the Lord for giving me this opportunity and blessing me with this great fortune,” Wanless said about his staggering windfall. “I will not squander it.”