AUGUSTA — A Maine-based organization that runs a retreat for wounded veterans is receiving half a million dollars from the winner of a recent Powerball jackpot.

The $500,000 donation is a big boost for the nonprofit Travis Mills Foundation, which reported $1.55 million in annual revenue in 2016, according to documents filed by the tax-exempt organization. 

Lerynne West, 51, of Dexter, Iowa, was one of two winners of the third-largest Powerball jackpot of $687.9 million last month.

Shot into the limelight, West appeared on the TV show “Ellen” this week to discuss events leading up to her life-changing win. At the end of the interview, West announced that she was donating $500,000 to the Mills foundation.

West said the foundation had a special place in her heart.

“My dad was a Vietnam vet,” West told host Ellen DeGeneres. “I come from a long line of people who have served in the military. I think it’s very important to see that we never forget the sacrifices that our soldiers and families make to our country.”


The organization’s founder, Travis Mills, was returning from an event in Atlanta when he began receiving phone calls from staff members. He recalled his reaction during a live Facebook video posted Wednesday night.

“I thought, ‘Oh crap, someone died,’” he said. “Nope, someone didn’t die.

“This lovely, amazing lady in Iowa who won the jackpot on the Powerball decided to go on ‘Ellen’ today, not telling any of us, and she donated, live on ‘Ellen,’ $500,000 to the Travis Mills Foundation.”

Mills was an Army staff sergeant when he lost all four limbs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in April 2012. With the help of prosthetics, and the support of his wife and daughter, Mills regained the ability to walk, drive a truck and perform countless other tasks, including creating his foundation to help wounded veterans.

Last year, he raised more than $2.5 million to open a retreat for wounded veterans and their families in the Belgrade Lakes region. The foundation aims to support veterans and their families by offering all-inclusive visits to the retreat. Last year, it hosted 84 veterans and their families.

“That money goes a long way. We’re going to be able to help out so many families,” Mills said Thursday. “And to that lovely young lady with three beautiful children: We want to say thank you.”


Foundation Executive Director Brandy Cain said the nonprofit budgets $1,000 per person to attend the retreat. She said since July 2017, 200 veteran families from 34 states have attended. The foundation issued a news release Thursday afternoon thanking West for the donation, saying it “will be a catalyst for new projects.”

The other winner of the jackpot is from New York City. West opted to take a lump sum of $198.1 million instead of a 29-year annuity worth $343.9 million.

Attempts to reach West were not successful Thursday.

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills said the recent donation of $500,000 from a Powerball jackpot winner will go a long way toward helping families of wounded veterans. (File photo by Elise Klysa)

Powerball winner Lerynne West of Dexter, Iowa, donated $500,000 to the Travis Mills Foundation, a central-Maine-based nonprofit that runs a retreat for wounded veterans. (Still from video of “Ellen” show)

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