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How a Utah Sports Reporter Accidentally Raised $55,000 to Help People During the Holidays


If sportswriter Andy Larsen ever writes his autobiography, he might have to title it, ‘The Accidental Philanthropist.’

That’s because when Larsen, who covers basketball for the Salt Lake Tribune, inadvertently encountered a $ 55,000 Venmo bonanza, he used the money to help needy families over the holidays.

The story begins just before Thanksgiving, with SpongeBob SquarePants.

Larsen’s mother called to let him know that she had just found the distinctive yellow container he used as a child to store loose change in his bedroom and wondered if he would want to go get it.

The share of the change amounted to over $ 165. Larsen, feeling in the holiday spirit, decided to donate the loot to people who could really use a few extra bucks this time of year and spread the word to his 27,000 Twitter followers. :

“So I had a big jar of coins lying around,” he tweeted. “I went to the bank today and made them count. $ 164.84. Instead of keeping it, I want to give it to a few people who could use the help for their home Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas gifts. My DMs / responses are open. “

By Diane Helentjaris

Unsurprisingly, requests for assistance started pouring in, but on the other side of the proverbial coin, requests came in from people wanting to increase the reward.

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The first came from a man named Jeff Jones, who asked Larsen to put on his Venmo deets so he could contribute to the good cause.

“I was surprised someone did that” Larsen said the Washington Post. “Even more surprising was that minutes later, people started retweeting everywhere and sending me money out of nowhere. It just exploded. “

Even more amazing? About a thousand people donated around $ 55,000 in a single day.

In all, Larsen responded to about 200 requests for help. Finding out who would get the money and how it would be distributed became his next concern.

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“I did my best to verify the stories they told me, usually through conversations with those who asked and a little research on social media. The vast majority reviewed ” Larsen explained in The Salt Lake Tribune.

In the end, Larsen gifted people with vacation cash, as well as funds for car repairs, utility bills and groceries. And, in addition to sending sums of $ 200 to dozens of families to help cover medical bills, he gave $ 10,000 to RIP medical debt, a national non-profit organization that buys debts from collection agencies and forgives them. (Larsen was told that his donation of $ 10,000 would translate into approximately $ 1 million in debt reduction relief.)

Also on the unintentional “Nice List” holiday were several local charities that focus on food insecurity, including a $ 1,000 donation Larsen made to a high school food bank serving low-income families.

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“I cried when he contacted me,” said Meg Thunell of Kearns High School in Salt Lake County. “The combined goodness of all those people giving without even knowing where I was going restored my faith in people after a long and difficult year.”

And it was all thanks to an accidental philanthropist, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

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