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Some big winners have changed lives with their big bucks

Shaun Harrison
1 of 11 Mitchell Haaseth/NBC


Deal or No Deal may give contestants a chance to change their lives by winning big bucks, but as some of these past winners prove, sometimes the "real deal" is changing others' lives.
2 of 11 Trae Patton/NBC


Nondumiso Hazel Sainsbury immigrated to the United States in 2004, but her mother and three brothers still live in her home country. "The only reason I auditioned to be on Deal or No Deal was to help my family," she said.
3 of 11 Trae Patton/NBC


Sainsbury took her 286,000 and headed to South Africa to pay off her mother's home, which was days away from foreclosure. Sainsbury also helped renovate the small home and paid for additions, including a garage.
4 of 11 Garrett Davis for TV Guide


"I bought the house so that everyone in my family would have a place to call home, and so I could stay with my mother when I visit.... My mother made a lot of sacrifices, so it was nice to be able to give back."
5 of 11 Endemol Productions


Sherman Mitchell lost his new-born nephew three months after his appearance on Deal or No Deal in 2006. "The money allowed me to have a funeral for him," says Mitchell.
6 of 11 Nicole Weingart for TV Guide


Next, he resigned from his job as a men's work coordinator at a violence intervention program, took the rest of his cash and started his own company called EXCEL Mentor and Resource Center (excelmentorme.org).
7 of 11 Nicole Weingart for TV Guide


The organization helps youths in the Los Angeles area and teaches them to get jobs and give back. "I didn't have any role models when I was a kid," says Mitchell. "There aren't a lot of people who give back, and I wanted to."
8 of 11 Trae Patton/NBC


When Dawn Runyon lost her job, she couldn't afford to keep medical insurance for herself or her kids. Then, "My doctor discovered an abnormal growth on my cervix," recalls Runyon. "I didn't know what I was going to do."
9 of 11 Jonathan Willis for TV Guide


Runyon took home 139,000, secured health insurance for herself and her family and had surgery to remove the growth. "If I'd waited any longer, it would have progressed into cancer." Deal or No Deal, says Runyon, literally saved her life.
10 of 11 Paul Drinkwater/NBC


Peter and Nicole Montesanti had been trying to start a family for years. "We wanted a baby so badly," says Montesanti. "We'd looked into adoption, but it was very expensive." Montesanti has Donald Trump to thank for his new son.
11 of 11 Peter Harasty for TV Guide


"Trump said to me, 'How badly do you need the 359,000' and that snapped me back to reality," says Montesanti. Over a year after winning, the Montesantis flew to Bogota, Colombia, and finished the adoption process in four weeks. - Zoe Alexander