May 1, 2007 by

Wayne Schenk


Categories: Business, Military

Last December, Wayne A. Schenk received some grave news. Doctors told him he had lung cancer and only 12 to 16 months left to live.
A struggling tavern owner and longtime smoker, Schenk didn’t have any health insurance. Since he served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1976 to 1980, the Veteran Affairs Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y., agreed to provide him with radiation and chemotherapy.
Schenk needed more aggressive cancer treatment in order to survive, and the VA’s resources were limited. He requested a transfer to cancer centers in Pennsylvania and New York, but both were out of the VA’s network and required patients to pay $125,000 upfront and have $250,000 in reserve. Schenk simply didn’t have that kind of money. Although he considered selling his tavern, the Orange Inn in Naples, N.Y., Schenk knew a real estate deal would take too long and may not net enough money to pay for the specialized medical care he needed. With nothing to lose, he decided to play the New York State lottery.
Surprisingly, the long shot paid off.
On Jan. 12, Schenk won $1 million from a $5 scratch-off ticket in the lottery’s High Stakes Blackjack game. The odds of someone Schenk’s age developing lung cancer are roughly 1 in 5,000; the odds of winning the jackpot in High Stakes Blackjack are 1 in 2,646,000.
Unfortunately, the sudden windfall did not solve Schenk’s health or financial problems. According to lottery regulations, the prize money could only be paid out in 20 annual installments of $50,000. Schenk didn’t have 20 years ahead of him. He needed the lump sum award to even have a chance at staying alive.
As his health continued to decline, Schenk turned to friends, family, financial institutions, the media, even a N.Y. state assemblyman for help — all to no avail. Legislation to create an exception in Schenk’s case would take years to pass, and lottery officials refused to bend the rules for him.
In the final days of his life, the Canandaigua, N.Y., native married his girlfriend, Joan DeClerck. He was so ill during the wedding ceremony that he had to breathe through an oxygen tank. Before the disease weakened his health, he enjoyed traveling, ice fishing and hunting.
Schenk died on April 23 at the age of 51. He left the remainder of his lottery winnings to his wife.

14 Responses to Wayne Schenk

  1. Kay

    It is a shame that no one in power could come forward and help you. It is a sad time on this earth where money means more than human life. I hope you have peace now and I am sorry they let you down.

  2. lorraine

    Its a sad time when America REFUSES to take care of its own while dishing out millions to foreign lands. NO ONE in America should be without health care, refused health care, or suffer in dying. I am so sad to read this and know its repeated EVERY DAY somewhere in AMERICA!

  3. JollyRoger

    Some “culture of life” we have here eh?
    If you’re a fetus, or in a permanent vegetative state, your life is worth something. Anywhere in-between? Good luck, buddy.

  4. Brandy

    Truely a sad thing. Only in America right? It is shameful that as Americans we have so many without health care and food, yet let the American powers that be know of another country in dire straits and they will ship half of our country out to help them.

  5. jennifer

    I too know the struggle of a country who refuses to take PROPER care of the men and women that put their lives on the line for our freedom. I had to watch my father die of congestive heart failure at a V.A. hospital because he didn’t have adequate insurance and “Funds were limited”
    Who can truly call that freedom?

  6. Lisa

    This is so sad and such a shame! The Lottery should have made an exception in this case. It’s very sad that he was let down when his chance for life was just a decision away! It almost makes me ashamed to be an american. America can pay out money to so many who come to our country illegally and then have the nerve to deny their own. I pray that Wayne Schenk is in a far better place now!

  7. FeliceB

    I agree with what everyone has already posted on the blog. Yet I have a feeling that we are all responsible. Government is supposed to be by the people for the people. I would not have chosen deliberately to let you die over a simple technicality such as money. It is truly a sad day in America when we can spend trillions of dollars on an unnecessary war and could not make you an advanced loan on a million dollars that you had coming to you in advanced payments for life-saving medical treatments. Every official of the New York lottery system should fear the karma they created by this act of cruelty. It is time for a long overdue systemic analysis of our cultural and moral value systems in this country. I echo another post that an unnecessary tragedy like this makes me sad to be an American. Life people….life. This is not a dress rehearsal and everything that we do or don’t do to and for each other counts in the scheme of things. Wayne, I pray that you forgive us all and are resting in peace.

  8. tim

    20 annual installments of $50,000 is worth a lot less than 1 million, or conversely, 1 million is worth a lot more than 20 annual installments of 50,0000. If one invested a million in stocks one might reap 50,0000 a year in dividends leaving the invested capital untouch AND with capital gains over the period. Any lump sum he would have been able to obtain would have been considerably smaller than 1,000,000. How much would one need to invest to insure a return of 50,0000 a year for 20 years, such that there is NO capital left at the end? Perhaps about half a million? Perhaps less since in 20 years, after inflation, 50,000 may not be worth much.
    Was Mr. Schenk prepared to accept that amount?
    Did the lottery officials refuse even to offer him that amount?
    Does the lottery make it clear that one can not really win one million, but only a year payment of 50,0000 for 20 years? There is a big difference.

  9. mary ann

    I am so so sorry to hear what happened to this beautiful hard working man..I cried my eyes out when I read this story. The Health system, the goverment..ect…will all be demolished and destroyed by the new world as Jesus Christ is coming soon……How dare you let this man perish cause of “the rules” you should have override it to the highest determination possible then results could have happened….Read Revalation Chpt. 24 Verse 7-35……you will see.

  10. Sabina Peltier

    I cannot believe what I just read about this poor man. How could this country, and all those rich millionaires, movie stars, people who throw that much money and more away, to have a good time for one evening partying, not come forward to help save this man’s life. I also do not understand why he was denied the treatments he needed. Couldn’t the treatment center collect the money each year as it was coming in? Even if he died, they could have still collected what was owed, from whom ever he willed the remainder to. That’s it. All these envelopes for donations that come to my house are heading for the garbage from now on. I can see that those in need do not benefit from these donations. I would sooner give my money directly to someone in need. I am shocked.

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