Advocates for newborns win Calif. lottery

/ Source: The Associated Press

A couple who provide funerals for abandoned infants and helped inspire a California law to save unwanted newborns won a $27 million lottery jackpot — and plan to use the money for their advocacy work.

Debi Faris-Cifelli and her husband Steven won the California SuperLotto Plus jackpot Wednesday. They plan to take the winnings in a lump sum — a little less than $9 million after taxes. A check should be issued within several weeks, lottery officials said.

The couple said they would use the money to continue their advocacy work, possibly by starting a college scholarship fund with awards given in the names of the 70 abandoned babies Faris-Cifelli has buried at the Garden of Angels cemetery she started and now runs full-time in Calimesa.

“We can do some good with the money,” Steve Cifelli, a high school guidance counselor, told KABC-TV on Monday. “Because we believe in helping people, and now we’re going to be able to do some things that’ll last lifetimes, generations.”

Debi Faris-Cifelli started the cemetery for unidentified and abandoned infants and lobbied for a 2001 state law that allows mothers to leave their unwanted newborns at hospitals and other designated sites without fear of prosecution.

She plans to put some money into increasing education and publicity of the “safe haven” law.

Faris-Cifelli said she hasn’t yet thought about what the couple would buy for themselves.

“The first thing we started thinking about was, what can we do to keep this money helping others,” she said.

The couple spent $20 to buy their winning ticket in their hometown of Yucaipa. It was only the third time they had played the lottery together.