The Sideshow

Billionaire Ty Warner gives woman $20,000 for her cause after asking her for directions

Jennifer Vasilakos (Jennifer Vasilakos)

A woman who helped a lost man ended up with a surprise $20,000 gift.

That's what happened last month when Jennifer Vasilakos guided Ty Warner when he stopped and asked for driving directions in Santa Barbara, Calif.

While Warner didn't know exactly how to get to where he was going, Vasilakos didn't realize who she was helping.

Warner is the billionaire founder of Ty Inc., the Beanie Baby company.

Vasilakos was at the intersection trying to raise $20,000 for a stem cell procedure she needs to help save her life because she suffers from kidney failure and does not qualify for a transplant.

She describes their encounter in her blog:

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... 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...  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.

He was true to his word. Vasilakos, an herbalist and Reiki teacher, received a package on July 16 with a $20,000 check and with a handwritten note from Warner. The note read in part, "Someone up there loves you because I was guided to meet you Saturday. I never lose my way, but fate had me lost and ask you for directions. The rest of the story I hope will be a wonderful new life for you."

Courtesty of Jennifer Vasilakos

"Of course I started crying, because that's what girls do," Vasilakos said. "I'm incredibly thankful to Ty Warner and to everyone who has supported me with love and prayer."

The check cleared a few weeks later and she booked a surgical procedure at an undisclosed foreign hospital to begin hematopoietic stem cell treatment. Hematopietic treatment takes a cell from the blood or bone marrow that can renew itself and develop into a variety of specialized cells.

"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 said in a media release. "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."

So the chance meeting allowed both Warner and Vasilakos to each continue on their journeys.

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"Of course I started crying, because that's what girlsdo," she said.

"I'm incredibly thankful to Ty Warner and to everyone who has supported me with love and prayer," she said.

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