We love a heartfelt story about our vets this time of year. It’s the holidays and a time when we celebrate the gift of giving back to our proud veterans. At the AVHF we’ve been following the story of Johnny Bobbit Jr., a homeless veteran, who received the gift of a second chance. We love it because it shows both how helping others is so intrinsic to those that served and how selfless acts can be rewarded in unexpected ways.
Photo from the GoFundMe page seeking donations to help Johnny. (Photo provided by Kate McClure)
Johnny is a former marine who fell on hard times. His story is not unlike so many other veterans who came home expecting a much different life. Johnny is a certified paramedic who moved around the country for a time and finally landed in Philadelphia with a job lined up and some money to buy a truck. But soon after the job fell through, leaving Johnny surviving off meager savings. To add insult to injury, he lost his paperwork, rendering him unable to work. One night on the streets turned into a week, and ultimately a year of homelessness.
But Johnny’s life was about to change for the better when he crossed paths with Kate McClure, who found herself stranded on I-95 when she ran out of gas. Johnny did what any selfless veteran would do and decided to find a way to help. Kate was unsure at first, but Johnny asked her to wait in her car while he went to retrieve gas. Johnny spent his last $20 that day, returning with a can of gas to fill her tank. Kate was overwhelmed by the gesture and though she had no money to give, she promised to return to give him something. What she ended up giving to Johnny was ultimately life-changing.
The Gift of Selfless Giving to A Veteran
Kate, along with her boyfriend Mark D’Amico, returned several times over the weeks that passed, bringing Wawa gift cards, cash, and snacks. Even more, they got to know Johnny and heard his story. It was a story that could happen to anyone when life throws them a curve ball.
As a result, they decided to do more. “I would say, ‘I keep thinking about that guy,’” D’Amico said. And McClure was thinking about Johnny, too. They decided to launch a GoFundMe campaign with a simple, attainable goal of $10,000 – hoping for a few hundred just to help Johnny get back on his feet, get a vehicle and retrieve new paperwork. They gave Johny his first check for $769 and checked him into a hotel where he could spend Thanksgiving. As they spread the word across social media, the couple was able to garner over $5000. That caught the eye of local media who ran their story.
What happened next was incredibly inspiring! Money didn’t just trickle in, it poured in. By Friday the 24th Johnny’s fund had grown past $300,000! “The whole game changed in the last 24 to 48 hours. His expectations changed, and what he wanted to do changed,” D’Amico said.
Johnny found himself overwhelmed by the show of support. While he doesn’t know what he would do with his newfound wealth and opportunity, he wants to pay it forward to the people and places that helped him through his darkest times.
Johnny has started the process of getting his paperwork replaced, as he’s currently without identification or Veteran’s Affairs papers. He hopes to get a job at the Amazon warehouse in Robbinsville, New Jersey, and down the road, hopes to take the test to become certified as a paramedic in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
(Facebook Photo of Johnny working as a paramedic)
Remember our Veterans During the Holidays
Johny’s story doesn’t have to be the only story of hope we hear this holiday season. We can all make our own stories by helping our veterans – in our communities and families. We urge supporters of the AVHF to spread the word. And, as always, let us know how you’ve helped veterans in your own way. We love to hear stories of giving to our veterans