A formerly homeless man recently donated $10,000 to a high school in Illinois in an effort to repay an act of kindness shown to him three years ago.
The principal of an Illinois high school received a handwritten letter last month that contained a check for $10,000. In the note, the sender, Warne Herter, explained that his donation was an effort to repay an act of kindness shown to him by two students.
Dan Kaiser, the principal of Dwight Township High School in Dwight, Illinois, shared the contents of Herter’s letter with ABC News.
Herter’s special connection to Dwight Township High School began back in 2013 on a bitter winter day. At the time, Herter, who now lives and works in California, was homeless.
In the letter, Herter writes about two anonymous students who saw him outside in the middle of a blizzard and stopped to ask him what they could do to help. He explained to them that he was trying to make his way to Springfield, Illinois, to see his ill father.
After talking to Herter, the two students left for a bit, only to return with warm clothes and one of their fathers, who bought Herter a train ticket to Springfield, a 90 mile trek.
“They got him on the train and that was it,” Kaiser told ABC. “They’d just done something nice for him, not knowing if it was a true story or not.”
Kaiser said that after receiving the donation, he asked his daughter, who was a student at Dwight Township in 2013, if she knew of anyone who would’ve have done something like that.
“She said, ‘Yeah, Luke did it,’” Kaiser said, referring to her daughter’s longtime boyfriend, Luke Arnold.
Up until then, the only people who knew of the favor Arnold and his friend, Ryan Kodat, did for a complete stranger were their families and a few close friends.
Kodat and Arnold, now both 21, went on to attend college and technical school. In the years following their interaction, Herter received an inheritance of more than $1 million from his father.
The formerly homeless man now works as a stand-up comedian and writer, according to his Facebook page.
“He said to do whatever we wanted with the money, but it had to be in memory of his father and in honor of the two boys who helped him,” Kaiser told ABC.
The principle shared that he and district superintendent, Dr. Richard Jancek, created a $500 scholarship to be awarded to two graduating seniors each year for the next 10 years. Recipients will be selected based on an essay they write describing a random act of kindness they’ve done.
Kaiser said the school wants to include Arnold and Kodat in the selection process.
The school has reached out to Herter since receiving the letter. According to Kaiser, Jancek spoke with Herter and confirmed the check's authenticity. Herter also spoke with Arnold and Kodat after learning that they were the students who helped him.
“It’s something they didn’t expect but I think they feel good that people are making a deal about it because it’s a good message,” Kaiser said of the two young men. “You do things like this, just a random act, and it could pay off. It’s all pretty cool.”