Gavin Dandal, (R), an operating room (OR) nurse at Toronto Western Hospital, and his wife, Marie, a nurse in the OR at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, pose with a photo of their new lakefront cottage in the Kawarthas, a grand prize in the Princess Margaret Cottage Lottery. (Photo: UHN)

Gavin Dandal was sitting at his desk at Toronto Western Hospital, preparing paperwork for the next operating room (OR) patient, when his name was announced on CP24 on the TV in the staff lounge.

From there, everything snowballed.

His colleagues erupted in cheers and his phone blew up with calls from his wife, father and surgeons congratulating him for winning a $2.4-million grand prize in the Princess Margaret Cottage Lottery.

"That's when I realized it was real," says Gavin, an OR nurse at Toronto Western Hospital.

"I'm still in shock."

Gavin began purchasing tickets for the Princess Margaret Lottery back in 2016, although, he never dreamed of winning something this big. That is, a lakefront cottage home in the Kawarthas worth $2.3 million, plus $100,000 in cash.

But that's not the only reason Gavin and his wife, Marie, an OR nurse at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, began purchasing tickets.

"Working in the operating room, we see first-hand where proceeds from our UHN lotteries go, like research and technology," Gavin said in an interview after the win was announced on Aug. 10. "The OR is where I was when I decided to start purchasing tickets seven years ago.

"All the work we've done and continue to do as an organization – it wouldn't be possible without donations like this – and I'm proud to be a part of TeamUHN."

'This cause is for something much bigger than us'

Gavin and Marie have a close friend battling cancer at the Princess Margaret. They know just how important it is to be championing cancer research right now.

"Even if you don't win a prize, you're always going to be a winner, because this cause is for something much bigger than us," says Marie.

Gavin and Marie, and their Goldendoodle, Millie, have always been cottage-goers but never owned one themselves. Their first plan for their new home is to throw a big party for friends and family; with Marie's birthday around the corner, this gift came just in time for them.

Gavin shares his winning ticket with Marie and his father, Alfredo, and looks forward to treating his parents and in-laws at the cottage as well.

Their lives have been changed forever, although Gavin says he still plans to do what he loves: working.

"I love my job, I still have plenty to contribute," he says. "I don't plan on leaving UHN anytime soon."

Members of TeamUHN are encouraged to support the Princess Margaret Lottery, which raises money for life-changing research at the cancer centre. Most staff are eligible, except for: employees of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation; members of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation Board, members of the UHN board, the UHN Executive Leadership Forum and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Executive.

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