NEWS
06/23/2011 08:02 EDT | Updated 08/23/2011 05:12 EDT

Vivian Leung, Canada Lottery Winner, Turns Free Ticket Into $22.6-Million Jackpot

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- TORONTO - A free lottery ticket has turned into a $22.6-million jackpot for a Toronto-area woman.

Vivian Leung won a complimentary ticket off a $5 bet in May and used it in time for the massive Lotto Max draw last Friday.

The 49-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., resident, who came to Canada from China 27 years ago, said she was simply trying to "keep calm" Thursday as she stood beaming for reporters with her oversized cheque at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's downtown Toronto prize centre.

Leung, who manages a store that sells hair products, said she didn't know what to make of the eight-figure number that flashed on the ticket-checking machine after she scanned her ticket.

"There were too many numbers there, so I thought it's not real," she said.

The store attendant had to convince her the ticket was a winner, said Leung, who intends to keep working.

It's the biggest OLG win since a $50-million jackpot — the largest the lottery agency allows — was claimed in January by a group of employees at a Bombardier manufacturing plant.

That jackpot sparked controversy after two more people came forward to claim the prize. The OLG denied the additional claimants, who then went to court seeking to overturn the decision.

Leung said she wants to share the money with her family, and with one person in particular — her 85-year-old dad.

She said she plans to move him from Edmonton, where he lives alone, to an apartment near the home she shares with her cousin's family just outside Toronto.

But first she has to let her father know his daughter is Canada's newest multimillionaire.

"He has high blood pressure so I'll have to tell him slowly," she said.

She always wanted to live with him but said couldn't afford it. Now she plans to fly him to Toronto on a first-class plane ticket.

"For him? It must be."

She said her windfall prize will feel real "as soon as I cash the money."

"Even for myself I don't really believe it."