'Dream Christmas' for Ipswich lottery winners
- Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Camelot
Just three years ago Karen Dakin was struggling to afford a Christmas spread for her family but now the millionaire is able to pay back those who helped her after a dream lottery win.
The former Ipswich dinner lady and her husband, Jeff, said this year feels like a 'dream Christmas' as they prepare to spend the day with their 15-year-old son in the home they bought in May - the first house they have ever owed.
For 54-year-old Karen, March 13 was a usual Saturday evening. She and her husband were playing Scrabble, having a drink and some snacks, when she thought she'd check the lottery numbers - and then everything changed.
Whenever she played she would pick numbers based on her son's birthday, and on that night they proved to be very lucky - bagging the family £1million.
Since the big win, she and husband Jeff, 60, have bought their own home for the first time and it'll be just them and teenage son Callum together for the festive season.
Karen said: "We have got surprises with the presents, it's been lovely not to be restricted with what we can spend.
"We don't have many to buy for, but we've spoiled Callum this year, and my mum and dad for the help they've given us. They and my brothers were a big help when Jeff had his stroke, and I don't think they realise how thankful I am."
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Jeff was at Ipswich Hospital, where he worked as a storeman, when he collapsed in November 2018, so was treated within minutes, but he remained an inpatient for a month afterwards.
"I did think I was going to lose Jeff at one point but thankfully he recovered. It was very hard, working and visiting the hospital and looking after Callum and putting on a brave face."
Even when he was able to come home for Christmas 2018, the family struggled; they couldn't afford Christmas dinner without some help from Karen's parents.
It couldn't be more different this year; after renting for 35 years of marriage, the Dakins finally bought their own five-bedroom home in Ipswich in May and "had a little cry" when they moved in.
Karen added: "It still feels like we're in a dream, really. Even though we've got the house it doesn't feel like ours, it feels like a holiday home.
"The money is there, but we're not constantly thinking 'we can do this, we can do that', so it still does feel like a dream.
"I've given up work, and can finally just devote myself to my family. My life now is about creating memories for Callum."
When it's safe to do so the family plan to get passports and take a foreign holiday - first Portugal and then there's mention of Disneyland - but celebrating Christmas comes first.
And how will it feel waking up on Christmas morning in her own home with all those surprises waiting to be opened?
"I'm looking forward to it, I'll be awake at five o'clock in the morning - I'm a big kid at heart when it comes to Christmas.
"We'll get up, open presents, I'll do the dinner. In the evening we might play a couple of games of Scrabble and raise a glass."