Former firefighter-paramedic turned homeless man earns $380K after good deed
Johnny Bobbitt Jr. was studying to become a flight nurse before his life took a bad turn due to drugs
By Camila Molina
The News & Observer
PHILADELPHIA — The homeless man who has become a national celebrity after helping a stranded driver on the side of a Pennsylvania road is a former paramedic and hospital technician from North Carolina.
Johnny Bobbitt Jr., 34, is from Henderson, N.C., according to his Facebook page. He’s a Marine Corps veteran who once worked as an emergency room technician for UNC Health Care and was a paramedic and firefighter in Warren and Vance counties. He apparently was studying three years ago to become a nurse.
In a post in August 2014, Bobbitt wrote that he aspired to be a flight nurse, and in 2009 he posted a photo of himself standing in front of a Carolina Air Care helicopter.
After living in different places around the country, Bobbitt moved to Philadelphia because he had a job waiting for him, nj.com reported. But the job fell through and he lost his paperwork, leaving him unable to work, according to the report.
Bobbitt this year often sat on the side of an exit ramp on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia, and that’s where the story that made him famous unfolded.
But Bobbitt’s life, a friend from North Carolina told The Inquirer in Philadelphia, took a bad turn because of drug and money problems.
He had been homeless for about a year when he met Kate McClure in October.
McClure ran out of gas while driving to Philadelphia from New Jersey on I-95. Bobbitt saw her pull over on the side of the road and approached her.
“He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors,” McClure wrote on a GoFundMe page she later created for Bobbitt. “A few minutes later, he comes back with a red gas can. [sic] Using his last $20 to make sure I could get home safe.”
She visited him a few times after their encounter, bringing warm clothing, food, gift cards and money for the gas, but she wanted to do more to help him.
So McClure created a GoFundMe page on November 10 with a goal of $10,000, enough to rent an apartment and pay for four to six months of expenses, according to the page.
Their encounter went viral after a New Jersey paper published their story. Other outlets followed: ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CNN, The Washington Post and People.
As of Nov. 27, the fund raising page has collected more than $377,000 in donations.
“It’s like winning the lottery,” Bobbitt told “Good Morning America.” “Of course I want to change my life. I want to give a lot of it away.”
Bobbitt told “Good Morning America” he plans to get a place to live and buy a used car with the money.
He plans to donate the money to organizations that have helped in the last two years, McClure wrote in an update on the GoFundMe page on Nov. 25, and he said he was connecting with a lawyer and financial adviser to talk about what he can do with the rest of the money.
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