Kim Haggarty

Fortunate one

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It's unlikely that Kim Haggarty would draw a lot of attention as she glides effortlessly across the ice at Howelsen Hill during one of her "learn-to-skate" lessons each week.

That is unless you happened to be an ice skating student under the age of 10.

Dressed comfortably in a pair of blue jeans and white figure skates Kim could be described for a lack of better words as pretty average. She blends easily in the exercises with her young students and the fact is that no one watching her would ever guess that Kim is the biggest Lotto winner the state of Colorado has ever seen.

In fact, the big Lotto winner is so comfortable in Steamboat that she doesn't even try hide her identity anymore.

"I always wanted to live in a ski resort, so after I won the Lotto we began looking at places to move to," Haggarty explained.

Kim said the $27-million jackpot that she won brought a ton of attention to her and husband, Dan. The couple was bombarded by so much attention at their previous home in Boulder that it was overwhelming. Soon, they decided that the time to leave Boulder had come and the task of picking a place to relocate became a priority.

Kim said the criteria was simple. The town had to be far enough from the Denver metro area that friends would have to call before stopping by for a visit. But it still had to be close enough so the couple wouldn't lose touch with those friends.

"Vail and Aspen just seemed to be a little to snotty and Telluride was a little too far," Kim said.

Steamboat came up because Kim's brother, Joe Walker, and his wife, Donna, had been looking into buying into a brew pub here. So Kim and Dan decided to check the mountain town out for themselves.

"Steamboat was great," Kim said. "It just seemed to be filled with everyday people."

So the decision was made and Steamboat Springs became their new home.

Kim said it wasn't hard fitting into Steamboat's laid-back way of life and it didn't take her long to discover the downtown ice skating rink. Her impact there has touched hundreds of lives over the past eight years.

"Kim has been instrumental in building our local figure skating club," said Bill Krueger. Krueger has two daughters in the figure skating club and was a member of the ice skating rink advisory board at the same time as Kim.

"She was great to work with," Krueger said. "She was always positive and she worked hard to get things done."

The rink was a place were Kim could continue to pursue one of her biggest passions skating. She also said, at least at first, she liked the fact that it was outside, because it gave her a chance to escape to the ski slopes from time to time during the winter. The rink used to close when it snowed too much or it was too warm outside. The bad days for the skating rink allowed her to slip up to the mountain for what were normally great days on the hill.

"I grew up in New Jersey and ice skating has always been a part of my life," Kim said. "I started teaching my senior year of high school and taught all through college."

She said she has always skated and even harbored hopes of skating competitively through high school. But an auto accident just before the start of her junior year left Kim in a body cast for six months. By the time she had fully recovered, any ideas of making it to the next level were gone.

"There comes a time in skating when you have to decide if you're really going to get serious or move on to college," Kim said. "I chose college."

While at the University of Colorado, Kim continued to skate and pursue a degree in kinesiology, the study of body movements. She taught and worked at the university's ice skating rink, which offered stunning views of the Flat Irons on clear days.

Kim said those wide open windows that run the entire length of the ice on one side helped her fall in love with the Colorado mountains. The ice skating rink also was where Kim first met Dan.

"She came up to me and asked if I could do a mohawk in hockey skates," Dan said. "I didn't have a clue what she was talking about."

But after a short explanation that a mohawk is simple move where the skater places the heels of the skates together and then by transferring weight from one skate to another switches positions from backwards to frontwards, Dan proved it could be done even in hockey skates.

Kim explained that she was teaching a group of young hockey players who told her it was impossible to complete the move in hockey skates.

"I had skated my whole life, but I had never had a pair of hockey skates on," Kim said. "I wanted to make sure that my students were not giving me a line."

After graduation, the two, who were still not married, elected to stay in Colorado. Kim took a job as a physical therapy aid making just more than $6 an hour and Dan started working at a restaurant in an effort to make a living in Colorado.

One day Kim took a trip to a convenience store on Folsom Street near the Haggartys' home and everything changed.

"I had this box cake that had just been sitting on my counter for three days and I knew that if I didn't buy some frosting it would go to waste," Kim said.

So she grabbed the frosting at the store and made her way to the checkout stand. As she was waiting to pay she decided to buy something else a lottery ticket.

"I wasn't a big Lotto player," Kim explained. "But everybody had Lotto fever back then (mainly because the jackpot was the biggest in the history of the state). I just decided to buy three Quick Picks."

Kim said she thought the numbers looked really bad at first glance because they kind of ran in a line. But later that night, as she watched the big drawing on television, she realized that the numbers were going to be the best she had ever seen.

"We were in shock," Kim said. "I don't think we thought it was real and we were just pretty numb."

Since then, both Kim and Dan have learned a lot about being big winners. They got married on a cruise shortly after winning and took 27 family members along with them.

Kim said that winning has been mostly positive, but there have been a few negatives along the road.

The positives include being able to travel to places like New Zealand, Australia and the Caribbean. But the couple also has been bombarded by all types of people looking to cash in on their new wealth.

"The first thing you learn to say is, 'No,'" Kim said. "We learned how to do that real quick."

While winning the lottery has definitely changed the Haggartys' life, Kim and Dan have tried to keep the important things in their life in focus.

For one thing, the thrill of winning the lottery has since been replaced by the gift of two daughters, Hanna, 4, and Kayla, 2.

"Sure, winning the Lotto was pretty big next to having kids," Kim said. "Having kids, well, that's just a little bit bigger."

Kim and Dan said they have found a good home here in Steamboat and are grateful they have had the chance to fit into the community. The two also are happy to see that the rink has been roofed and are hoping to see it open on a year-round basis in the future.

Skating continues to be a big part of the couple's lives. Dan has coached youth hockey in Steamboat and Kim has built the local figure skating club into an organization with more than 60 young skaters. Several of them are starting to move into the state's highest competitive levels.

"Skating is a huge part of our lives; there is no doubt," Dan said.

It's not uncommon for skating or hockey to dominate a dinner conversation. Dan said Kim will even think about skating when they are out on the town.

"She might have heard a song in the movie and she will lean over and say 'Hey wouldn't that be great in a program,'" Dan said.

Krueger said the Haggartys have had a positive impacts on figure skating in Steamboat. He said the true sign that Kim is doing a good job is that the kids in the program keep coming back year after year for more.

"My kids are having a great time in the club," Krueger said.

Krueger said he thinks that is the true test that any coach is doing their job, no matter what the sport is.

He added that Kim has been instrumental in making sure the program has good coaching and continues to grow.

Kim admits that she was pretty one dimensional when she first met Dan, but has since branched out.

Today skating isn't everything. The couple also enjoys scuba diving, mountain biking and traveling.

"Skating was the only thing she did when we first met," Dan said. "Now she's into a lot of other things.

Family has also remained important to Kim and she normally travels back to New Jersey every summer for a few months to visit with relatives.

Kim, who comes from a large family that includes a brother and sister who still live back east and her brother Joe who now lives in Denver, said that family is very important to her. She is glad she found Steamboat and is looking forward to raising her own family in this neck of the woods.

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