(REHOBOTH, DE) – Last week, a Delaware man raised over $5 billion dollars for his 5K charity race, and has sent the local and world-wide economy into a tailspin. Luther Neerhoff, an IT computer specialist and avid Dr. Who fan, was asked by friends to partake in the Race Against Homelessness, a 5K that asks participants to raise money for the local homeless shelter.
“Jogging and exercising aren’t normally my thing,” says Luther, his breathing starting to quicken. “But all my friends were doing it, and it would be a good excuse to get out of the house for a while.”
Organizers asks all participants to find at least five people to “sponsor” them. Sponsorship can include a one-time donation, 5 canned food items, or a per-kilometer commitment.
“No one thought I could complete the 5K; it was actually quite embarrassing,” explains Mr. Neerhoff from the safety of his couch. “I was glad to prove them wrong, but at what cost?”
After soliciting his friends and neighbors, who all agreed to the per-kilometer commitment for a few dollars each, Luther reached out to Facebook and other Internet-media sites like Reddit, Twitter, and MySpace.
“Everyone thought it was a joke! I may not be in the best shape, but I can certainly walk three and half miles in one day!” Unfortunately, this included many strangers on the Internet. The per-kilometer sponsorships began pouring in. In just three days, Luther had a commitment total of over $45,000, IF he could make it to the finish line.
“There was so much pressure now! I only needed $25 or 10 cans of food to be counted as an ‘active’ participant; but now the charity organization was calling me every few hours to be sure what was happening was real!”
The Race Against Homelessness even hired a personal trainer and life-coach to go over to Luther’s home. “It was so odd; they wanted to cook all my meals and make sure I was healthy; there was no WAY I would be missing this damn 5K.”
Soon everyone in town had heard of the race, and more support and donations came flooding in. Total pledges jumped from $45,000 to over $50 million in the span of 8 hours. Celebrities were tweeting about it; Michelle Obama sent a Vine congratulating him; his page was shared more than leaked pictures of the new Star Wars movie. But along with support came the harassment.
“I’ve never felt so bad in my life,” Luther says, after reading some of the tweets and comments about him on Internet message boards. “They really didn’t want me to finish the race. Some threatened to injure me so I wouldn’t make it, and then the homeless shelter would get no money. Why someone would stoop that low is beyond me.”
But Luther did make it to the race. His pre-race support was over $1.5 billion dollars, but it wouldn’t stop there. During the race, casinos in Las Vegas began taking bets on whether Luther would finish the race, and other bets on how far he would get before giving up. The charity organization were watching as the donations kept coming in, and sent out their best runners to stay with Luther the entire 3.2 miles.
“It was humiliating; this was no longer about charity, this was no longer about ending homelessness, and it certainly was no longer about having a ‘fun run;’ it was to see whether or not an overweight guy basically wouldn’t die before jogging 3.2 miles. And that honestly made me want to not do the race. But then I remembered who would be hurting if I didn’t, and that gave me the strength to push through.”
When all was said and done, donors had committed $5,096,450,110.05 to “Race against Homelessness” via Luther’s page. What happens when a non-profit organization now has more money than some countries in the world? Everyone wanted a piece of them. Stock trading ceased as Luther began and ended his run; now entire markets were shifting because of the donations. Canned goods, blankets, local Delaware real estate; everything was changing. The Rehoboth homeless population were now the richest in the area.
“They started a riot! After all we had done for them, now the homeless were so happy they began breaking windows and looting stores, and the other racers joined them! It was like my Alma-matter had lost the final game of the NCAA championship, only this time, I was the loser, because I completed a race! Nothing made sense.”
The people of Rehoboth and Delaware in general are still recovering. There is an abundance of over-priced commercial goods in the area, as well as a springing-up of every chain restaurant and gas station brand from across the nation. Everyone wants a piece of that $5 billion, and those formerly-homeless-now-living-in-mansions people are ready to put their cash right back into the community.
Luther saw no money come his way, and all previous employees of the homeless action center had left the company. The Annual anxiously awaits the filing of taxes for this non-profit, and is excited for what may happen next year.
“I’m never doing this again,” says Luther. “In all honesty, I wanted to walk the whole thing. Running just doesn’t agree with me. Also asking people for money in order to participate? Kinda bogus.”