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French man who won $217 million lotto dedicates nearly all of it to saving the planet

'My dream has never been to acquire boats, castles or other sports cars, it is to be useful and to give meaning to this money.'

French man who won $217 million lotto dedicates nearly all of it to saving the planet
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Pakhnyushchyy

A philanthropist who came upon an unexpected cash windfall has decided to dedicate most of it to "protect the living and watch over our own future." The lucky Frenchman won a record-breaking $217 million lottery jackpot in December 2020 and says he almost immediately knew he wanted to put the money to good use. According to CNN, the winner—nicknamed "Guy" by the French lottery group Françaises des Jeux (FDJ)—told Le Parisien in an exclusive interview published Wednesday that from his point of view, "the priority today is saving the planet."


"We must act. It is an absolute emergency. If nothing is done in this regard, all other actions will be in vain. We will no longer exist," Guy said. At the time of his win, the jackpot was the largest in the history of EuroMillions, which is a seven-number lottery involving several European countries including France and the United Kingdom. Guy told Le Parisien he could still remember the doubts and disbelief he experienced during the life-changing moment he won the lottery. Once it was confirmed that he was indeed the winner, he added, he made up his mind to use the money to do some good.


"The minute I found out I was the lucky winner of the EuroMillions, I had the will to share my luck," he said in the interview. FDJ said in a statement that Guy was already determined to create his own foundation at the time of his win. A substantial chunk of his winnings have since been used to set up Anyama, an environmental foundation named after a town in Côte d'Ivoire where Guy spent several years during his childhood. "I have passed on most of my prize money and will gradually give away almost all of it," he said.


In an open letter published on the Anyama foundation website, Guy explained that it was his memory of watching trucks loaded with trees in Côte d'Ivoire that motivated him to create an environmental foundation. "In December 2020, I was lucky enough to win the lottery. I only played during important pots, with one goal: to devote the major part of this sum to the creation of a foundation. My dream has never been to acquire boats, castles or other sports cars, it is to be useful and to give meaning to this money, with maximum positive impact," he wrote.


"So that's what I'm doing today by creating Anyama, which acts for the benefit of the common good of all, with one watchword: protect the living. This is for me the urgency of our time and most certainly of the many years to come, in the interest of future generations," Guy continues in the letter. "Because Nature and Man are one and their vulnerabilities force us to act, Anyama gives itself three priority areas of support, in France (mainland and overseas): Protection and revitalization of forests, preservation and regeneration of biodiversity; and Support for family carers... Man, for years, believed he could exploit nature without taking into account his own membership in this ecosystem, freeing himself from the rules that guarantee its balance. This observation obliges us to 'pay attention to others,' to act to protect and regenerate."


"The Anyama endowment fund is the result of an imperious desire to act for nature and human beings that I have had for years. Above all, it is the expression of a conviction that I want to share with as many people as possible: giving makes people happy, and constitutes a tremendous lever for transforming indignation into concrete and useful actions," Guy added. Speaking to reporters, the FDJ group's spokesperson Thibault Mongis called Guy's decision to donate most of his prize to saving the environment an exceptional and generous gesture. Guy has since been dethroned as the largest jackpot winner when another French player won the sum of $239 million in October 2021.

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