Lifestyle

'I have to return the favor': Homeless veteran who received $360,000 in donations

HANNAH PARRY and EMILY CRANE Lifestyle
Homeless veteran
  • Kate McClure, 27, started a GoFundMe page for 34-year-old Johnny Bobbitt Jr. almost two weeks ago
  • Bobbitt, who is homeless, came to her aid when she ran out of gas at on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia
  • He walked a few blocks in the middle of the night and used his last $20 to buy McClure some gas
  • McClure said she didn't have any money to repay him at the time but promised to return
  • She set up a GoFundMe which has since raised more than $360,000 to help Bobbitt get back on his feet
  • Now the veteran has pledged to use part of the donations to help others who are struggling

A homeless veteran who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars after he gave a woman, 27, his last $20 for gas, has revealed he plans to pay his donations forward.

Marine Corps vet Johnny Bobbitt said he's been 'overwhelmed' by the generosity of strangers after Kate McClure's fundraising campaign smashed its initial $10,000 target. Donations currently stand at more than $360,000 as money continues to pour in to help Bobbitt get back on his feet.

Bobbitt was reunited with McClure on Good Morning America on Sunday where he pledged to pay forward his donations to help others.

'That's how I got the money to start with, from other people,' he said. '[I have to] return the favor. I can't constantly take and not give back.'

'This money was given to help me. Why not help other people in similar situations or people that are actively helping other people in different situations?' he added. 'Everybody out there is facing some kind of struggle, so if I can touch their life, the way mine was touched, [it'd be] an amazing feeling,' Bobbitt said. 'I want to feel the feeling on the opposite end.'

McClure, 27, started the GoFundMe campaignafter she ran into trouble on Interstate 95 and Johnny Bobbitt Jr., came to her rescue with his last $20.

Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, McClure said that she didn't know what to do when she pulled over on the deserted highway just before midnight. 'My heart was beating out of my chest.'

She phoned her boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, 38, and asked him to come and get her. It was then that Bobbitt Jr. emerged from the darkness and approached her car.

'Ten minutes later,' D’Amico said, 'she called me and said the guy brought her gas.'

The former Marine veteran and EMT was concerned for her safety along the stretch of road and told her to lock the doors and stay in her car while he went to fetch the fuel. McClure, who works for the New Jersey Department of Transportation said she didn't have any money to repay him that night.

'We drove away and went on with our lives,' D’Amico said.

But over the next few days the couple returned to the road several times to give him cash, clothes and food. They also got to know him more and talked about his predicament.

'Johnny said, "Yeah, tell me about bad luck. But don’t get me wrong. I’m here because of my own decisions. I got nobody to blame but myself",' D'Amico said.

D'Amico and McClure were struck by how Bobbitt refused to blame others for his situation.

'I can’t stop thinking about this guy. I think about him all the time,' D'Amico texted McClure. 'OMG! Me, too!' McClure replied.

The couple said they were impressed by Bobbitt's desire to share the gifts he received from them with his other homeless friends. This, they say, inspired them to do more.

'They all look out for each other,' McClure said. 'Mark and I got back in the car and we were like, "Man, if we could change this guy’s life." And that’s when we came up with the idea of GoFundMe.'

'I wish that I could do more for this selfless man, who went out of his way just to help me that day,' she wrote on the fundraising page.

But everyone was stunned by the response as donations flooded in.

'I just got her gas to help her get back on her way. I didn't think anything about it. I wasn't expecting anything in return,' Bobbitt told Good Morning America.

Bobbitt, who is originally from the Raleigh, North Carolina area, says he and McClure have formed a friendship - something he missed when he was on the streets.

'It does get kind of lonely out there. People treat you differently ... when you're homeless,' he admitted. 'People don't look at you the same.'

McClure said during their various conversations she learned that Bobbitt, who is originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, served in the Marines as an ammunition technician.

He had been training to be a paramedic before he became homeless in Philadelphia 18 months ago.

Bobbitt encountered money problems, before turning to drugs and having several run-ins with the law.

He told McClure and D'Amico that he wants to live in Robbinsville, New Jersey and work at the Amazon warehouse.

'He just needs a push in the right direction. I can't imagine how hard it is. He's from the Carolinas. He's a thousand miles from home with nothing, nobody. Things probably snowballed to where he's living under a bridge,' D'Amico said.

'He doesn't want to be on the streets anymore. He wants to be a functioning member of society and not be sitting on a guard rail in Philadelphia.

'He knows where he's at and he knows what he has to do to dig himself out.

'It's almost impossible to dig himself out if he has nobody and nothing. If we can raise enough money to set him up for a few months, where he doesn't have to worry about where he's going to sleep and what he's going to eat, then he can get a job and go about his life.'

McClure said she had planned to use any donations on getting Bobbitt his first and last month rent on an apartment, a car and at least four to six months worth of living expenses.

'He is very interested in finding a job and I believe that with a place to be able to clean up every night and get a good night's rest, his life can get back to being normal,' she wrote.

Bobbitt said that he also planned on buying a used truck but didn't want to rush into anything.

'I want to change my life, but you know it just happened,' he said. 'I need to time to figure it all out.'

McClure has also arranged meetings with a financial planner and a lawyer to help the veteran.

'I just want to do the right thing,' Bobbitt added.