A merry time to hit Mega Millions $400M jackpot

So, roughly two weeks from Christmas, how would winning tonight’s $400 million Mega Millions jackpot affect your shopping down the stretch?

Matt Marchant, 36, sat on a bench in the cold Thursday in south Kansas City and pondered that question. Then he began to nod.

“Pretty big,” he said.

First thing he’d do is stop price comparing. He’d just roll through those remaining names on his list.

His parents?

“Maybe a new house,” he said. “They don’t really need one, but they’ve been in their place since 1974.”

By then he had warmed to this exercise.

“And I’d get a new house for me, too,” the Starbucks employee said.

Probably a lot of that dreaming going on today. ’Tis the season to look for bargains and hope the money — or the credit card — holds out. If somebody hits the Mega Millions, they wouldn’t get the full $400 million, but they would sure get enough to stop wondering whether that $10 Kohl’s Cash from back in October will still work.

Tonight’s estimated jackpot is the fifth largest in U.S. lottery history. No one has won Mega Millions in about two months. The Star heard all sorts of answers Thursday about what people would do if these two powerful forces — Christmas’s spirit of giving and a jackpot’s instant wealth — fell into each others arms.

Many gave the expected response — their family would get a better Christmas than usual. Instead of a non-stick skillet, a grown daughter might get an Acura. Mortgages would get paid off. Grandchildren would get college tuition money.

But Dennis Pangborn, 67, of Overland Park said $400 million would be more than a Christmas changer.

“That’s a life changer,” he said Thursday after buying tickets at Red X in Riverside.

“I’ve got two kids and two grandkids. I’d pay off all their houses and get them debt-free. I’d give some money to the Salvation Army, then disappear for about a year and let the dust settle. After that, I’d probably settle in St. Thomas.”

Dianne Harrison of Riverside said Christmas presents for her children and grandchildren would be “big chunks” of her winnings.

But Clara (she asked her last name not be used), 78, from Tonganoxie, said she would give most of her money to faith-based charities.

And to family members?


“Oh, I might put some in a college fund for grandkids, but I think if you give them too much money it might spoil them,” she said.

Most said they would add their own names to their Christmas list. New homes, new cars. Shopping sprees, exotic vacations. A couple of men said they would buy homes on Caribbean islands.

Almost all answers came in the bosom of Christmas joy. Except for the man who, when asked what he would get his family members, said: “A really nice goodbye card.”


Most, though, said they would give a big share of their winnings to charities such as the Salvation Army, Harvesters and Children’s Mercy Hospital.

“With that kind of money, you’d have to share it with people,” Marlin Handy, 70, said at Red X. “Besides, at my age, no way I could spend all of it and it’s not like I can take it with me.”

His wife, Betty, listened and nodded — until he was through.

“Then I’m going shopping!” she said with a whoop and a couple of dance steps between the liquor section and the lottery window.

Retired warehouse worker Dave Clark, 75, said his four grandchildren would never have to worry about college money.

“But my first millions go to St. Jude (Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis) and Children’s Mercy Hospital,” he said. “They do so much good work and if I could give some money to do some more, then I sure would.”

When asked what she would do if she won, Sister Berta Sailer at Operation Breakthrough responded: “Oh, that’s an easy question.”

She said many families who use the inner-city child care center live in homes with no heat, so she would give enough money to provide utility assistance to fire up those furnaces and keep them running.

Some responses, though, may push idealism to the edge. One woman said she would try to save all the unwanted dogs and cats in the world — and get all the old people out of bad nursing homes.

Amira Wyatt, 25, said she would “buy out” the Kansas City Public Schools and restructure it to focus on sciences, arts and trades.

“Our kids don’t know how to do anything,” she said. “They know about the Kardashians, but not wind turbines. If I won that money and they promised they would fix the district, I’d give it to them.”

The drawing is at 10 tonight. Who knows, some Christmas luck and you may be rolling in enough dough to buy whoever whatever and save the world at the same time.

But just in case, hold on to that old Kohl’s Cash.