Kim Haggarty among Colorado Lottery’s biggest and wisest winners
January 24, 2010
Steamboat Springs — You'd think people would be more excited.
On a Wednesday night in March 1992, Kim Walker was sitting in front of a TV in her Boulder home, holding a lottery ticket that would grant her a $27 million dollar prize to be paid out during the next 25 years.
She called and woke up her mother, who told her to sign the ticket, go to sleep and call back in the morning.
She called her boyfriend and future husband, Dan Haggarty, who told her he'd finish cleaning the restaurant where he worked, give the restaurant's cook a ride and come home.
Hanging up the phone, the newest Colorado Lottery millionaire — and still the game's largest single winner to date — felt more than a little underwhelmed.
"I just think everyone was in shock," Walker, now Kim Haggarty, said last week.
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Colorado Lottery recently highlighted Kim Haggarty as a past winner who has used her windfall wisely. Since moving to Steamboat in 1992, Kim Haggarty has devoted much of her time to developing and promoting figure skating programs in town.
This summer, she, Dan Haggarty and a team of partners plan to open a new Yampa Street restaurant, Delta Blue.
"We got really good advice, and we're pretty conservative people as it is," Kim Haggarty said.
What she always wanted
Earlier that March day, Kim was not concerned with anyone else believing her sudden good fortune.
She was concerned with a fat-free cake mix that Dan Haggarty wouldn't eat. Part of a care package from her mother, the cake had been sitting, baked and untouched, on the counter for too long. Ready to have it gone, she headed into 7-Eleven on a routine gas stop for a can of frosting, a carton of vanilla ice cream and some milk.
The Colorado Lotto jackpot was soaring, and everyone Kim knew was buying tickets. Standing in line, she decided to buy three quick-pick tickets — the kind that print automatically and don't require the buyer to choose numbers.
The day after one of those tickets altered her life's plan, Kim and Dan drove to Denver, turned in the winning card and started thinking about what to do next.
Dan quit the restaurant, and Kim left her physician assistant job. They got married, moved to Steamboat Springs and bought the relatively modest log cabin they lived in for six years until they had children.
"I always wanted to live in a ski town, and I always wanted to teach figure skating, and those are the two things I do," Kim Haggarty said.
Following a dream
When Kim moved to town, the footprint of what is now Howelsen Ice Arena was an open-air skating rink, where heavy snow could close things down during the few months of a year it operated.
Having spent her years before college as a competitive figure skater, and having continued skating and teaching in Boulder, Kim Haggarty made the ice rink her baby. Today, the fully enclosed arena is home to youth and adult hockey programs, figure skating classes for all ages, and the Steamboat Springs Figure Skating Club, which Kim Haggarty directs. She teaches skating at the arena several times a week.
In her years as a figure skater, Kim Haggarty developed the confidence to go out on the ice, put forth a solo performance and be judged.
"It teaches you to accept what other people are thinking of you and to be able to move on and improve from it," Kim Haggarty said.
She's applied those lessons to everything she's done since and will use them as she, her husband and business partners Damon and Cheryl Renfroe work on Delta Blue, a Southern fusion restaurant with a planned June opening.
Spending like it was earned
In many ways, the Haggartys' responsible use of their windfall comes from long-standing family work ethics, down-to-earth personalities and a lack of interest in extravagant things.
Kim Haggarty's father has worked in the steel business all his life and still owns a company in New Jersey, where Kim grew up. Dan Haggarty spent years working in restaurants to make ends meet.
Aware of stories of lottery winners who lost it all, the Haggartys have kept their money close. Dan Haggarty said the couple has been careful to avoid the problems he knew could sneak up on winners who "just go crazy and put a lot of things on credit and don't think about the tax man."
Despite their caution, the Haggartys' win is different from other big pulls in the Colorado Lottery's 27-year history. In 1992, lotto winners were not given the option to take cash in a lump sum. Though Kim Haggarty said she would choose a 25-year annuity plan again if she could, at the time it wasn't a choice.
The annuity plan makes it easier to track Kim Haggarty, her accomplishments and her windfall, Colorado Lottery spokeswoman Erika Gonzalez said.
"When people started taking cash, it became harder for us to track them in what they were doing because they would take a check, and then they would sort of go away," Gonzalez said. "It's been really difficult within the last even 15 or 16 years to track how people are spending their money."
Because Colorado's games are not as widespread or varied as the offerings of some state lotteries on the East Coast, it's hard to apply any national trend about how people are spending their winnings to Colorado Lottery winners, Gonzalez said.
The state lottery's most recent survey of past winners found those people being more able to pay their bills and travel, but otherwise without drastic lifestyle changes, Gonzalez said.
Planning for the future
Kim Haggarty knows she's been lucky. She also knows her 25-year annuity won't last forever. Delta Blue — located in the former Steamboat Yacht Club building, which the Haggartys now own — is a way to ensure continued income when the lottery checks stop showing up, she said.
Kim Haggarty said she doesn't plan to have an active role in the operation of the restaurant and will let her partners and management team — helmed by her brother, Joe Walker — handle the day-to-day opperations.
Kim Haggarty does plan to help organize live music for Delta Blue's bar area, and she's had a hand in the restaurant's interior design elements. She expects that her children — 13-year-old Hannah, 10-year-old Kayla and 5-year-old Trey — will one day lend a hand where needed.
"They're pretty excited about the restaurant, too. I grew up with a family business, and I think it sets a good work ethic," Kim Haggarty said, pointing out the importance of setting a similar ethic for her children.
"Obviously, this is a fortunate thing that's happened to me, but it's not going to happen to them."