Gambling

$10M winner's story of rejection, motherhood and love

She calls herself “Gypsy,” a reference to the wandering, challenging life she’s led since moving to South Florida 16 years ago.

Except now, Tara Tuttle, 35, is a really rich Gypsy, after cashing a $10 million scratch-off ticket Friday in Tallahassee.

The Coral Springs mother of two, who has been in a domestic partnership for seven years, left Maryland shortly after her parents disowned her for coming out as a lesbian, she said. Making matters more complicated, she also had a newborn daughter.

So she moved to South Florida for a fresh start and to live in a region more conducive to her lifestyle. But she kept moving – at least once a year – in an attempt to stay one step ahead of creditors. Along the way, she had another daughter.

“I just didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Tuttle recalls. “I just had to grow up very, very fast.”

Tuttle says her life stabilized when she went on a blind date with Cary Tullos, whom she met through MySpace (yes, before Facebook).

“I’m looking for a black-haired, blue-eyed beach girl,” Tuttle says she wrote.

They soon became legal domestic partners and settled into a Coral Springs home to raise the daughters, now 16 and 9. (The new millionaire declines to name the children or their schools.) Tuttle, who has fibromyalgia, workedÖ as a modeling and acting talent scout. Tullos is a regional property manager.

Tuttle says they had a medical scare this month after she and Tullos visited an in-vitro fertilization clinic. Tuttle wanted Tullos to have a child, via the same father as her 9-year-old, but doctors discovered two growths in her breasts.

“We thought it could be breast cancer, and when I found out it wasn’t, I screamed – louder than when I won the lottery,” Tuttle says. “If I could have my wife without the money, or the money without the wife, I’d choose her.”

Of course, their life changed this week, when Tuttle bought a $20 Billionaire Blockbuster Scratch-off ticket at a Coral Springs Publix Wednesday, Sept. 12.

“We had all the bills paid for the week, were getting paid Friday, and there was still $50 left,” Tuttle says.

She scratched off the ticket in the parking lot and was shaking as she walked back into the store and the clerk confirmed it was a $10 million winner. (She’ll take the $6.5 million immediate one-time payment.)

Tuttle has lined up legal and financial representatives, but she says giving the money away is a big priority. She wants to support those people with her 9-year-old’s disorder, Chiari malformation, or structural defects in the cerebellum. She’ll also pay off Cary’s parents’ house, buy nursery items for her sister-in-law and look for ways to help young mothers, children and people with cancer, which killed her father three years ago – but not before Tuttle reconciled with her parents.

“But I’m not going to go buy a Ferrari or a Lamborghini,” she says. “I’ve had to walk down the street without anything, and I’d love to do what I can to help people like that. I was always the person who gave away a dollar to the person on the street before this, so I’m not going to change.

“You know, the past few years, I’ve met a wonderful partner, have great kids and have been happy,” she says. “I’ve kind of felt like a millionaire already.”

Copyright © 2015, South Florida
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