Here's a lesson in not putting off those asking for directions. Jennifer Vasilakos was at an intersection in Santa Barbara, Calif., when a man pulled up asking her for driving directions.
Little did Vasilakos know, but the man was billionaire Ty Warner, who is most well known for starting the Beanie Babies sensation in the 1990s. These simple directions would end up earning her a $20,000 check for a treatment she believes will save her life.
Vasilakos, who was passing out fliers to raise money for a stem cell treatment that would restore function to her kidneys and allow her to go off dialysis, gave Warner a flier and explained her situation, according to Yahoo! News. At the time, Warner made a $50 donation.
On her blog, Vasilakos explains what happened afterward:
He was lost and needed directions. I often get asked by random strangers for directions. Not one to miss an opportunity, I handed him my flyer and he made a fifty dollar donation. As he drove off, I thought that was the end of our encounter. One of my girlfriends with me that Saturday morning noticed his return before I did. Again he stopped at my table near the entry to the parking lot. He’d returned after an hour or so. Rolling down his window, he reached out his hand and introduced himself. I immediately recognized his name. He was kind and sincere as he looked directly into my eyes, and the woman with him smiled at me. They’d read my flyer. I listened as he repeated over and over that he was going to help me. That my fundraising was done. That I didn’t need to worry any longer. He said he would send a check after he returned to his offices during the week.
"After I serendipitously met Jennifer, I further educated myself on her stem cell needs. I was shocked that this particular type of treatment wasn't available to her in the U.S.," Warner, Chairman and CEO of Ty Inc, said in a statement. "My hope is that we can bring this lifesaving treatment to the forefront so that it can become more readily available and provide alternatives for people like Jennifer."
Vasilakos left for an international hospital, which has not been disclosed, last week. According to the release, Vasilakos' Hematopoietic stem cell treatment does not use embryonic stem cells. The hospital where she will receive the treatment has been approved by the International Cellular Medicine Society.
Vasilakos was ineligible for a kidney transplant due to melanoma she had on her back last year. She states on her fundraising website that she believes this treatment will last the rest of her life, as opposed to a transplant, which could last up to 10 years.
"My deepest gratitude goes out to Ty Warner, and I don’t have enough words to express the “thank you” from my heart and Spirit," Vasilakos wrote on her blog.