Biography of Cynthia Jay Brennan: Megabucks Winner
Jay-Brennan was a kind-spirited cocktail waitress in Las Vegas that was eager to pick up extra shifts at her job so that she could save up enough money for her wedding. She lived in a one-bedroom apartment and lived a very modest lifestyle. All that changed in the blink of an eye when she won nearly $35 million from a Megabucks slot machine back in 2000.
While winning money can be a huge blessing, it certainly does not solve all your problems. A tragic incident just weeks after Jay-Brennan's big win would leave her paralyzed from the chest down. Specialists have told her that no amount of money will be able to help her walk again. To learn more about the ups and downs of Cynthia Jay-Brennan's life, feel free to continue reading this exclusive biography.
Before Her Win
Cynthia Jay-Brennan was born in Sacramento, California, to a large family. She had 5 sisters and 3 brothers, all of which she was very close with. She also had a good relationship with her mother and father, who worked hard to support the family. They never had a lot of money growing up and couldn't afford luxuries like family vacations or expensive toys, but they always made the most out of what they did have.
Jay-Brennan's fondest childhood memories are of time spent on Christmas morning, watching White Christmas together as a family. After the movie was over, they would each open their one Christmas gift, which was often something hand-made by their mother. She often looks back on those moments and smiles; she never felt like she was missing out because of a lack of presents. She just enjoyed the time she got to spend with her family.
While still in high school, Jay-Brennan got her first job as a waitress at a local diner. She worked evenings and weekends, giving the majority of her wages and tips to her parents so that they could pay their bills. She was thankful for everything her parents had done for her over the years and had no problem helping them out.
Early on, she had dreams of going to college to pursue a career in photography. Those dreams were crushed when reality sunk in; there was no way she was going to be able to afford tuition. Even community college would be too expensive for her. She decided to move to Las Vegas and work as a cocktail waitress so that she could save up enough money for college.
She started working for the Monte Carlo casino and was able to make a decent amount of money. While working there, she met her future husband: Terry Brennan. It wasn't long before the two started dating and eventually moved in together. Jay-Brennan's desire to go to college was soon replaced by a desire to get married. She often picked up extra shifts at the casino so that she could start putting away some money for their wedding. This meant she would be working for nearly 20 hours straight several nights a week.
Win of a Lifetime
Jay-Brennan hardly ever gambled, but she would occasionally try her luck out at the slot machines. On January 26th, 2000, she headed over to the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino to celebrate her boyfriend's mother's birthday. They enjoyed a delicious meal together and were ready to go home when Jay-Brennan had a sudden urge to play the slots.
Since they hadn't played in a while, her boyfriend happily agreed to join her. She made him promise not to let her spend over $100. Any time she went to a casino, she always set a budget for herself. She had seen too many people over the years that were obsessed with playing the slots, spending their entire paychecks every time they gambled.
She headed over to the Megabucks machine, as its jackpot was at an all-time high. She put in $21, betting $3 per spin. That money was gone quickly, making Jay-Brennan wonder if she should move on to a different machine. She decided to stick it out, limiting herself to just 2 more spins. On her second-to-last spin, she got absolutely no matching symbols.
Now, it was time for her final spin. Almost as if in slow motion, the Megabucks symbols appeared one by one; 3 flashing symbols covered the machine, signaling that she had won the jackpot. Jay-Brennan stared at the machine in awe. She had just won a little under $35 million and was flooded with all sorts of emotions. Her boyfriend came over, and the two started jumping up and down for joy. Soon casino officials would be over to congratulate her on the win.
After Her Win
Despite winning a life-changing amount of money, she still showed up to work the next morning. She didn't want the Monte Carlo casino to be understaffed, so she gave them her two-week notice and said she would be willing to train her new replacement. Her co-workers were sad to see her go, as she was a pleasure to work with.
The next four weeks would fly by. Old friends and classmates from high school started ing her; they wanted to borrow money. Since Jay-Brennan understood what it was like to struggle financially, she agreed to have lunch with everyone who called her and gave money to just about everyone she met with. In the midst of all these lunch dates, she was also busy planning her wedding.
Wanting to get married quickly, they had a small ceremony and only invited immediate family members and close friends. Jay-Brennan wore a beautiful ball gown wedding dress and served filet mignon and lobster to each one of their guests. She was happy to finally be able to afford such luxuries. After the wedding, the couple headed off to Fiji for their two-week honeymoon: another luxury they never would have been able to afford prior to winning the Megabucks jackpot.
When they returned, they met with an attorney so that they could establish a will and set up trust funds for each one of their family members. In addition to the trust funds, they also agreed to pay off any of their family members' accumulated debts, from mortgages to car loans. They didn't want anyone in their family to have to suffer financially anymore.
Once that was taken care of, they started planning their future together. They wanted to build their first house just off the Las Vegas Strip. It would be a two-story home with six bedrooms, a large balcony that wrapped around the entire house, and an in-ground pool in the back yard. They would spend a couple years traveling before officially settling down and starting a family. They were hoping to have 3 children.
They seemed to have their whole life planned out. As most of us have learned through experience, though, most things in life don't go as planned.
Jay-Brennan invited her family to come out to Las Vegas for a visit. Her mother, 4 of her sisters, and 1 of her brothers were able to make it. Once they arrived, she gave them the grand tour of Las Vegas, as it was their first time in the city. They ended the evening by going to the Boulder Station Hotel and Casino for dinner and a show. Not wanting the fun to end, they decided to head down to one last casino that was just a couple miles up the road.
Jay-Brennan and her sister, Lela, rode separately from the rest of the family. While stopped at a red light just 2 blocks from their destination, they were rear-ended by a drunk driver. The impact caused Lela's neck to snap forward, causing her to die on the spot. Jay-Brennan, on the other hand, was rushed to the hospital.
She was unconscious for several days before she finally woke up. She was very disoriented and was unable to recall the majority of the events that took place that evening. She bawled as the doctors told her that the fifth vertebrae in her spine had been shattered, meaning she would never be able to walk again. She is now paralyzed from the chest down, so children are out of the question, too.
Thanks to intense physical therapy, Jay-Brennan has been able to regain some strength in her arms. She is thankful for the money she won, as it allows her to pay her medical bills. However, she said that she would happily give it all back if it meant that her sister was alive again and that she would be able to walk again.
Giving Back to Those in Need
Jay-Brennan chose not to stay bitter about her new wheelchair-bound life. Instead, she looks for ways she can give back to others who have suffered from similar accidents. With the help of the Free Wheelchair Mission, Jay-Brennan has donated over 1,000 wheelchairs to disabled patients who otherwise would not be able to afford them.
She also donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) foundation in hopes of preventing the number of drunk drivers on the road. She has even visited several high schools across Nevada, sharing her story and warning students about the dangers of drunk driving. She always donates a portion of her Megabucks winnings to the schools she speaks at, so they can establish their own SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) clubs.