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Suttons Bay couple turns $80M lottery win into a nonprofit horse therapy ranch

Serenity Ranch in Suttons Bay is a dream come true for the Chippewas

Dawn Chippewa’s lifelong affection for horses began as a child. When she had her own children, she gave up that dream to raise them, and was happy to do so. But her husband, Phillip Chippewa, promised one day she would have her horses again.

With a career in the gaming industry and with seven kids and 23 grandchildren, her days and nights were very busy, and she wasn’t sure how that would happen.

But one day in 2019, Phillip played the lottery on a whim.

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Not long after, Dawn’s sister called to tell them someone in their hometown of Suttons Bay had won the jackpot, and asked if they had played. The tickets were still in their truck, and they didn’t think much of it and went about their business. Eventually, Dawn’s son got them from the car and checked the numbers.

“He came back in and he was going over the numbers and he was like, ‘Oh my god. Oh my god.’ I smack him like, ‘Stop messing with us.’ He couldn’t even talk. His girlfriend took it from him, and she started going through it and she’s like, ‘Oh my god, oh my god, he’s not kidding,’” Dawn said.

The ticket was a winner, and it was worth $80 million.

The Chippewas were in shock. “I’m like, ‘All right, this is crazy, this is insane. This cannot be real, what do we do?’” Dawn said.

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After they claimed their winnings, there wasn’t much to question about what to do with the money. Dawn was going to realize her dream and get her horses.

“I would say it’s always been a dream, because I’ve always had horses in my life. Basically I had to give them up to take care of my kids, I couldn’t do both. But Phillip always said he would give me horses again,” Dawn said.

The two were already looking for property to move to before winning the lottery. After looking at nine properties, they settled on Serenity Ranch. The property sits on the Leelanau Peninsula and is now home to 11 horses. Some of the animals are rescues, given to the ranch so they could have a better life with individualized care. The Chippewas’ vision of the ranch is to have it be a place where the community can interact with horses and be empowered through the relationship they develop with the animals.

“My horses were how I survived my youth. There is a lot of bad stuff that happened, and if I hadn’t had my horses I never would have been here today. That’s why I wanted to start my foundation, because I have an opportunity now to help other people heal,” said Dawn.

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Serenity Ranch is a nonprofit foundation that welcomes all members of the community to volunteer or interact with the horses on the property.

Volunteers on the ranch learn about horses and what it takes to care for them. Most weekends the ranch has some kind of activity for members of the community to do. Each month sees a different theme, and events coincide with that theme. You can find specific programs and volunteer opportunities at www.serenityranchllc.com.

Winning the lottery may have changed their life, but the Chippewas haven’t let it change their character. The best advice they can offer to anyone who comes into a life-changing sum of money is to keep it real.

“We both still look at each other, even to this day. and we can’t believe this where we are. I tell everybody I’m the worst, I guess you call it a millionaire, I know, because I’m so frugal because it’s all about trying to make every penny work, that’s how I was raised,” Dawn said. “It’s just given me so much more peace having horses back in my life having that dream happen and closer to actually real is been amazing. I know my husband is so happy to give me that dream back.”

For more information on Serenity Ranch LLC, visit their Facebook page or call (231) 866-1250.

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