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
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
The next four weeks would fly by. Old friends and classmates from high school
started contacting 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
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
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
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