Riccio, who lost the home she was renting in Superstorm Sandy, has been displaced ever since. But with the $3.8 million she won in last week's Powerball lottery drawing, she and her daughter will soon have a place of their own.
"The first thing I'm going to do is buy me and my daughter a home and bring my dog back home," she said, to loud cheers inside Mancini Hall at the Ocean County Library's main branch in Toms River.
There, all 16 local winners – co-workers at Ocean County's vehicle maintenance department – their family members, lottery officials and media converged to hear stories of great luck and even greater friendships.
"I'm still in shock," said Riccio. "It has been an extremely rough year, but when we lost everything, we really all came together. This is like family for me."
Seemingly the group's class clown, William Seeley of Manahawkin said he spent Tuesday morning out in a fire truck helping his fellow residents before coming to the lottery press conference.
"This is my best outfit," he said, pointing to his t-shirt, camouflage pants and hat complete with fishing lures attached.
He said he'll probably soon have a party at what will be a new cabin in the woods – "on multiple acres of land" – and invite his co-workers.
But "Willie," as his friends know him, said the most important use of his new-found wealth will be making sure his father gets the best health care he can.
"I lost my mom to cancer, and my dad's going through it right now," he said. "The first place I stopped was Pop's house. I started crying, stood in front of him and told him I loved him. I told him he didn't have to worry about the house or anything."
The group bought 48 tickets, with each employee kicking in $6. All of them were purchased at the Little Egg Harbor Acme supermarket.
In a nearly-impossible twist, however, the daughter of the man who is considered the "father of the New Jersey state lottery" was among the winners.
Barbara Jo Riivald, daughter of the late state Sen. John F. Brown (R-Ocean), said she lost her father in 2011, and he must have been looking down on her.
"My father was bigger than life, he was always my hero, and I couldn't ask for a better dad," she said, explaining that at first she didn't remember that her father was involved in the lottery's creation. "I wish he was here to share in the moment."
"The only thing I wanted to do that morning was pick up the phone and call him and call my mom," she said, starting to tear up.
Of the winners, one said he would be retiring, but all the rest said they would keep their jobs. Several raised their hands when asked by a reporter if anyone was a victim of Sandy.
Carole Hedinger, the state lottery director who is a Toms River native, said Brown wrote the state's lottery law, and was "smiling down on his daughter."
The group claimed their prize and validated the winning ticket on Monday, officials said.
"When the security officer walked in and said, 'that's the winning ticket,' you could hear cheers all through the building," said Hedinger.
The winners include:
- Ralston K. Chalfant, Jr.
- Peter R. Cherkos
- Joseph D'Angelo
- June M. Delgado
- Robert Heinen
- Dorothy A. Kulina
- Tabitha Long
- Brian W. McCarthy
- Susan M. Nickel
- Joseph R. Odoardo
- Lisa K. Presutto
- Darlene M. Riccio
- Barbara Jo Rivald
- Eleine Sanchez
- William L. Seeley
- Donna Cinque-Stasse