CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Lottery Acting Director John Myers introduced a group of 26 current and former West Virginia University employees, known as the “Mountaineer 26,” as the lucky winners of a $1 Million Mega Millions prize at a press conference at Lottery Headquarters on Friday.
“Today I have the privilege of introducing a great group of people who have been playing in an office pool for more than 20 years,” Myers said. “This group has had members come and go through the years and now includes 26 individuals that all have ties to WVU, where their pool began. The group, which we are calling the “Mountaineer 26” is spearheaded by Sheila Anderson and she bought their lucky ticket at Bell’s 119 Grocery in Morgantown.”
Anderson, who recently retired from WVU Health Sciences, was key in keeping the lottery pool going all this time. She manages the group’s pool, purchases the tickets and was the point person to notify the whole group about their big win.
“We play every week and I buy the tickets in advance using play slips. We have some people who give me particular numbers and some of them we use the Easy Pick. On this particular ticket that won the million, one of our group members had been using numbers she got from a fortune cookie a while back,” Anderson said. “We missed the Mega Ball number by one. I could not believe it when I saw the five numbers match and I had to look at it several times and call the store to confirm the numbers over the phone. I then started calling everyone at 6:30 in the morning to tell them, but nobody believed me.”
“The group would like to thank Sheila for keeping this going so long,” said John Fekete, one of the winners who currently works in the National Environmental Services Center at WVU. “We would not be here without here. When she called I was out walking my dogs and I called her back and I was skeptical and I thought she was yanking my chain. Honestly, I am still processing all of it.”
After tax withholdings, each share was roughly $26,300 and the group says that they plan to continue playing.
“We play weekly, but sensibly. It is just $1 or so per person,” Patrina Hower, one of the winners who works in Physiology and Pharmacology at WVU. “I thank God for this blessing and for Sheila and all of the other players in our group. It is a wonderful feeling to win and being in a group makes it even more special to me. I know I am going to take my family on a railroad trip somewhere through our beautiful state.”
“I just want to thank everyone for sticking with this,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we will win again.”
West Virginia Lottery players have been on a lucky streak recently. In a little over a month, four tickets that are worth $1 Million from the Powerball and Mega Millions have been sold in West Virginia. In addition to the Mountaineer 26’s Mega Millions win, Sam and Barbara Ratliff of Elkview won $1 million from the June 25th Powerball drawing, Robert Lane of Fairmont won $1 million from the July 6th Powerball drawing, and a still unclaimed Powerball ticket worth $1 million was sold in Worthington from the July 30th Powerball drawing.
David White represented Belko Foods, and their Bell’s 119 Grocery location, at the press conference. The store will be receiving a sells bonus of $10,000 for selling the $1 Million ticket.