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Kentucky woman wins $175,000 lottery jackpot in her office's holiday gift exchange

Lori Janes says the unexpected win made this Christmas unforgettable.

Every worker at Harmon Dental Center in Louisville, Kentucky, is likely attending the office holiday party next year.

Lori Janes, the office manager, won a $175,000 lottery ticket at this year's party. She tells that it was so unexpected because they weren't even going to have a party.

"This was the first year we decided to do this," she explains.

She says the owner, Dr. Bradley Harmon, usually takes all the staff and their spouses out for a nice dinner and the gift exchange happens there. But this year, he just wanted everyone to relax, so he ordered lunch for everyone Dec. 13 and they exchanged gifts during their break.

Lori Janes won a $175,000 lottery jackpot in her office's holiday gift exchange.
Lori Janes won a $175,000 lottery jackpot in her office's holiday gift exchange.Courtesy Lori James

"I'm like, 'OK, that's great," Janes remembers thinking. "I was kind of the last one to go in there. And they're like, 'Pick your number and then we're going to eat and then we're going to start having our little Santa exchange, where we have rules that we put in place.'"

Janes says 12 others participated and they each picked a number to see who got to choose their gift first. The only rule was that each gift can only be stolen twice. After that, the final recipient can open it. Janes says she drew number four and the person who drew number nine stole her initial gift that she was excited about, a $50 gift card to TJ Maxx. Janes then stole five scratch-off lottery tickets from someone else.

"Dr. Harmon's wife was like, 'Lori, that's dead now because no one else gets to take that from you.' I'm like, 'Really?' They're like, 'Start scratching off!' Well, I will tell you what, I hit on every one of those tickets."

The first four wins totaled less than $60 but then Janes started on the last one, which was black and gold and called "Hit the Jackpot." She knew it would be different because two of the five numbers on the card, 2 and 14, were the birthdays of her husband and daughter, Dec. 2 and 14 respectively.

Janes says this was "a Christmas that we're definitely never going to forget."
Janes says this was "a Christmas that we're definitely never going to forget."Courtesy Lori James

"I was so happy with my $50, like I never win on scratch," she says. "I was like, 'Well, now I get to go spend $50 at TJ Maxx,' right because I'm thinking in my head you stole my gift card."

The last scratch ended up being worth $175,000.

"It's been a whirlwind," she describes "I swear for that whole week, every time I talked about it, I was crying. It still didn't seem real. But now it's really set in since I officially took the money. I didn't take the money to the bank until like four days later."

Janes says her co-worker Michelle is who gifted the scratch-offs, a tradition from her late mother that Michelle continues. Janes says Michelle didn't have time to go to the store to pick up a gift card, so she went to her old-faithful lottery cards and "didn't get the one she wanted." She wanted a more Christmas-y one, but settled for the five she got.

Janes says winning big was a one in a million chance.

"I've had people reach out to me that bought these tickets for other parties later in that week. I'm not trying to be mean, but I don't really think we're ever going to re-create this moment like this."

Janes says immediately after winning, she FaceTimed her husband and high school sweetheart, with whom she shares two kids, 15 and 19.

Two of the five numbers on the card were the birthdays of her husband and daughter.
Two of the five numbers on the card were the birthdays of her husband and daughter.Courtesy Lori James

"He could tell by the look on my face. He was like, 'Are you all right, do you not feel good?' I'm like, 'No,' I said, 'I'm so red because I'm freaking out. Babe, I just hit the lottery.' He's like, 'You did not.'"

Her co-workers yelled over her shoulder that she was telling the truth and to come pick her up from work because she "can't drive, she's shaken," Janes remembers her co-workers saying.

Janes says her husband loaded up their two kids and the dog in the car, picked her up from work and together they went to the state's lottery office to confirm the win.

Janes says she's going to use the money to help pay for her kids' college education, and she gave them a little extra for Christmas.

"A big chunk of it will just be really for school for my kids, which will be amazing," she says. "They were already crying and this year I got to give them some cash at Christmas and you should see the looks on their faces. It was like, 'Oh, my God,' super cool moment. It's big."

"Whatever you may have been wanting, I want you to be able to get it," Janes recalls telling her kids. "This might be the only time that I would ever be able to say that to your kids when you're not on a specific budget."

Janes says this Christmas went down in the history books for her.

"Just to be able to do that extra was really cool," she says. "So it's like a Christmas that we're definitely never going to forget."