Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cheer Board hits jackpot with $50-K gift

Couple's donation largest ever

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The Christmas Cheer Board won the lottery Thursday when a Manitoba couple surprised the city charity with $50,000.

Kirby and Marie Fontaine, who won a $50-million Lotto MAX jackpot in 2009, donated the money hours after the Cheer Board announced it was short of its annual fundraising goal.

Kai Madsen, executive director of the Cheer Board, said the cheque was the largest the Christmas-hamper provider had ever received.

"That's never, ever happened in the history of the Cheer Board," he said. "I don't know how to put it into words. It's unbelievable."

According to Madsen, the Sagkeeng First Nation couple called him Thursday afternoon and asked what time the charity's office was closing for the day.

"I told them 3 p.m., and they said, 'Don't close the doors. We're coming over to cover a good chunk of your shortfall,'" Madsen recalled. "When they got here we were all kind of choked up because this is rare.

"Kirby and I went off in the corner and shed a tear and had a laugh."

Earlier in the day, Madsen had told reporters the Cheer Board would likely end up $50,000 to $60,000 shy of its $900,000 goal.

"It makes a huge difference," Madsen said of the record donation. "It's the difference between being able to pay the bills and not being able to pay the bills."

Prior to the Fontaines' timely gift, Madsen feared the 93-year-old charity would have to dig into its limited reserves and hope to make the money up next year.

"Now we can go forward and not have to worry about that," he said.

According to Madsen, the charitable couple's stop at the Cheer Board wasn't their last -- the Fontaines told him they were planning to make contributions to Winnipeg Harvest and Siloam Mission, among other local organizations.

"We weren't the only people on the list," Madsen said. "They were going to go around and make sure everybody was taken care of."

As for Madsen, he said the couple's generosity will buy him a little more shut-eye. "I was losing a little bit of sleep. Now I'll lose less."

ryan.bowman@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2012 A5

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