An anonymous stranger known only as "Benny" has been taking the concept of random acts of kindness to the next level in Salem, Oregon. For the past three years, Benny has been hiding $100 bills all over town. The bills have been found in grocery stores, big-box stores and various markets, hidden inside certain products like toys, diapers and other baby supplies, food boxes and more. The only way you know you've found a Benny bill is by the name scrawled on the side of the bill.
The Statesman Journal, a Salem-based newspaper, has been keeping track over the years of all of the "Benny" bills found and reported that the total is an amazing $50,000.
The Benny phenomenon first started when a mysterious benefactor named Benny donated $900 to the Salem Cub Scouts—all in $100 bills.
Benny always seems to have a knack for hiding the money at the right time that someone in dire straits really needed it—from helping an expecting couple buy a crib for their baby to supplementing someone's income when an unexpected medical emergency occurred.
But the impact of the hidden bills goes far beyond just paying for more stuff.
One grateful finder of a Benny bill named Jeff Phillips was recovering at home from cancer surgery when the Orlando shootings happened, putting him in major funk about the state of the world. Then, he bought a box of Almond Nut-Thin crackers and found the magical $100 bill inside.
He tells the Statesman Journal, “My attitude changed immediately. Does it cure cancer and terrorism? No. However, it reminds me that there are good people in the world that want to make a difference.”
The Benny bills are also encouraging others to pay it forward. One resident, Kevin Dunn, found a $100 Benny bill in a package of hot dogs and decided to keep the generosity going.
“We wanted to keep in the spirit of what he is doing so we decided to double the generosity and donate $100 to Marion-Polk Food Share and $100 to the Pet Therapy Program at Willamette Valley Hospice,” Denn tells the Stateman Journal. “It helped us reflect on our good fortune, and hopefully we’ve made a difference in someone else’s world as a result."
Another lucky finder, a 7-year-old girl, decided to take her great-grandfather out to dinner with her Benny to cheer him up after the death of his spouse.
Benny's identity still remains a mystery and those close to him have vowed to keep his secret. Basically, he's about as close to a modern-day superhero as we're going to get. And the citizens of Salem couldn't be more thankful.
Phillips sums it up when he says, “Please let Benny know he is making a difference here in Salem, Oregon, that helps hearts and minds and puts humanity back in the forefront."
And that's truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Photograph by: Statesman Journal