Kate McClure was on her way to Philadelphia when she met Johnny Bobbitt Jr.
McClure ran out of gas while driving on Interstate 95 last month. She stopped at the nearest exit ramp, her heart pounding as she got out of the car to find a gas station, she said.
Then she met Bobbitt, who was sitting on the side of the road near the exit ramp holding a sign.
“He saw me pull over and knew something was wrong,” McClure recalled. “He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors.”
McClure said Bobbitt walked to a gas station and came back with a can filled with gas. He had spent $20 — the only money he had — to buy it.
McClure decided to give back, so she started a GoFundMe campaign about two weeks ago to raise money to help Bobbitt get back on his feet. She had intended to raise $10,000 to pay for an apartment, a vehicle and other expenses for the next four to six months.
In a video McClure posted to YouTube last week, Bobbitt sat in the back seat of a car reading a newspaper article about the GoFundMe campaign to help him get off his feet. Bobbitt appeared to be elated by the article and the donations that McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, told him were flooding in.
They had raised just $769 at the time.
“God, that’s amazing. Damn, y’all did all that. That is awesome,” Bobbitt said.
He appeared to be overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers.
“People talk about Philly … I have honestly met more good people than bad, I really have. Like y’all! I mean that is amazing,” Bobbitt told them.
“Well, you’re a good person — that’s why,” McClure said.
As of Friday morning, McClure has raised more than $300,000 from 10,400 people.
The Washington Post was unable to reach McClure on Thursday, but she talked about her chance meeting with Bobbitt on the GoFundMe page.
“Johnny did not ask me for a dollar, and I couldn’t repay him at that moment because I didn’t have any cash,” she wrote.
She said she has been driving back to Bobbitt’s spot over the past few weeks, giving him a few dollars every time. She also repaid him, gave him a jacket, gloves, a hat and socks.
“One day I stopped to see him and had a few things in a bag to give him, one of which was a box of cereal bars so he could have something that he could carry around and eat,” McClure wrote. “He was very appreciative as usual and the first thing he said was, ‘Do you want one?’ ”
Another day, McClure said she gave Bobbitt two gift cards from the Wawa convenience store and a case of water. In response, Bobbitt, according to McClure, said he couldn’t wait to show “the guys” what she had just brought him, referring to a couple of friends he hangs out with.
“If those 2 statements alone do not give you a glimpse of the good heart this man has, I’m not sure anything will,” McClure said.
McClure and D’Amico told the Philadelphia Inquirer that they have gotten to know Bobbitt over the past weeks.
Bobbitt, who’s from North Carolina, became homeless because of problems with drugs and money, the Inquirer reported. The 34-year-old has been living on the streets for a year and a half.
A friend in North Carolina who had been close to Bobbitt told the Inquirer that Bobbitt was a talented paramedic and smart enough to become a doctor.
Public records show arrests in North Carolina dating back to 2001.
D’Amico said Bobbitt had talked to them about how his life took a turn for the worse.
“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 told the Inquirer, adding later: “He knows where he’s at and he knows what he has to do to dig himself out.”
The Post called a number registered under the names of Bobbitt’s relatives in Henderson, N.C., more than 40 miles northeast of Raleigh. A man who answered said they “do not want to make a comment at this time. I’m sure you’d respect our privacy.”
A Facebook page that appears to belong to Bobbitt has not been updated for more than a year. Three-year-old photos portray a man who seemed to be, at one point, living happily with a significant other and their dogs. One picture from June 2014 shows a clean-shaven Bobbitt smiling next to a woman wearing a pink and white long-sleeve blouse and a dog.
McClure wrote on the GoFundMe page that she believes Bobbitt is driven to find a job.
“I believe that with a place to be able to clean up every night and get a good night’s sleep, his life can get back to normal,” she wrote. “Truly believe that all Johnny needs is one little break.”
Just before Thanksgiving, McClure shared an update on Bobbitt. She said she and her boyfriend had found a hotel where Bobbitt can stay for the holiday weekend while they work on finding him a permanent home. Bobbitt wanted to relax in the hotel and watch television, D’Amico said.
McClure and D’Amico gave Bobbitt money to buy contact lenses and took him to Walmart, where he bought socks, CNN reported.
On Thanksgiving Day, D’Amico bought Bobbitt a computer, according to CNN.
McClure and D’Amico said Bobbitt hasn’t told them what he intends to do with all the money, but told CNN that he plans to post a video detailing his plans for the future.
“The whole game changed in the last 24 to 48 hours. His expectations changed, and what he wanted to do changed,” D’Amico said. “He has a couple of places in Philadelphia that got him through and got him by. He wants to pay it forward.”
“His dreams aren’t champagne and caviar,” D’Amico said.