Lottery Millionaires Interact with Students, Nature in Springfield
A group of 34 Lottery-made millionaires and their families spent time this morning giving away something more valuable than money. The millionaires, along with Wonders of Wildlife staff and volunteers and students from the Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility (WOLF) in Springfield, gave their time to help 200 students at McGregor Elementary School’s summer school program interact with wildlife and participate in other activities. The event was part of the 25th annual Millionaires Reunion, held in Springfield and Branson.
“We were excited to learn that the Lottery wanted to team up with WOLF to bring interactive stations and wildlife to our summer program at McGregor Elementary School,” said Dr. Ben Hackenwerth, executive director of elementary schools for Springfield Public Schools. “It is beneficial for young students to learn firsthand by experiencing and interacting with animals. This experience will probably be one of the highlights of their summer school education.”
During the two-hour event, students in kindergarten through fifth grade visited five stations where they interacted with live animals including birds of prey, reptiles and amphibians. They also learned about habitats and natural environments by making animal tracks out of plaster, pine cone bird feeders and frog masks.
“This is a great opportunity for the WOLF students to highlight what they learned during the school year. After the students complete their year at WOLF, they are offered the opportunity to continue to expand their skills and knowledge by volunteering at Wonders of Wildlife in the Tomorrow Naturalist Today program,” said Misty Mitchell, director of conservation programs for Wonders of Wildlife.
Gary Gonder, chief operating officer for the Missouri Lottery, said working with the WOLF program, which is a collaborative partnership between the Springfield Public Schools and Bass Pro Shops®, located on the campus of Wonders of Wildlife and Bass Pro Shops®, was a natural fit, given the Lottery’s mission and current promotions.
“In March, the Lottery kicked off its first Scratchers game and promotion with Bass Pro Shops®,” said Gonder. “Both the game and promotion have been a big hit with Missouri Lottery players.
“In addition, the Missouri Lottery exists to raise money for public education. So when we heard about the WOLF program, we thought pairing the two entities made perfect sense,” Gonder added.
Along with volunteering their time to help the summer students during their reunion, the millionaires will also visit the Branson landing, attend a Branson dinner show and hear a presentation about personal protection presented by Chris Lindsey, former Jefferson City police officer and now a security specialist for the Missouri Lottery.
“Probably the most valuable part of these reunions for the winners is being able to share their stories, experiences and advice with each other,” Gonder said.
The Missouri Lottery organizes the annual reunions, and the millionaires pay their own expenses. In addition to the emotional support, the reunions provide a chance for the Lottery to educate winners about pertinent issues, including choosing financial and legal assistance, tax changes, how to avoid scams, security and personal well-being topics.
Since it began in January 1986, the Lottery has created 319 millionaires, who have won prizes ranging from $1 million to $258.5 million. The 34 millionaires attending this year’s reunion have won more than $610 million in jackpot prizes combined.