And then there was Whittier... [statement]
Hidden Cash was started less than 2 months ago, when 2 friends in San Francisco came up with a fun way to give back to the community. Since then, it has grown faster and bigger than we had ever anticipated. We have gotten media attention from around the world, spawned hundreds of copycats, and brought thousands of people together to participate in our events. Many others have followed us online and in the media, in places we were never able to reach. We received thousands of heartwarming stories, from people who participated in our events and from those who just enjoyed watching and reading about it. These stories and the enthusiasm of our followers is what has motivated us to spend more time, money, and energy on Hidden Cash than we ever expected to. To take it to the Midwest and East Coast and Mexico and Europe, far beyond our California origins.
From the start, there have been those who have questioned both our motives and our methods. We will state once again, that we have no political, religious, or commercial agenda. We are not promoting anything. And that this is not meant to be instead of charity. We donate to charity as well, and encourage others to. And so many have written that they have been inspired to give to charity and directly to those in need, by buying them groceries or gas, as a result of Hidden Cash, both those who have found money and those who have not, but been inspired by our spirit of generosity.
We live in a cynical world, and all of us have been guilty of doubting people's motives as well. But we really just wanted to give back, and create something fun for people, and are so proud of the overall result.
In the first few days of Hidden Cash, we hid money in envelopes taped to fire hydrants, parking meters, benches, stop signs, etc. The news spread and we quickly had hundreds of thousands of followers. Exactly one week after Hidden Cash started, we did an event at a strip mall in Burbank, CA, a Los Angeles suburb. I was personally having dinner at the Olive Garden in the same shopping center that evening as I was tweeting out clues. The waiters were talking about the event, and some young diners were running in an out of the restaurant. As my waiter brought me the check, he said "You should take a look outside. Someone hid a bunch of money out there". I couldn't believe the scene. There must have been between 500 to 1000 people running around, news crews, helicopters, police... From that point on, we only did our events in large, open outdoor spaces. You can't responsibly tape money to a parking meter or fire hydrant on a street corner if 1000 people might show up. We planned outdoor events, hid many envelopes (or Pez dispensers, or sugar packets) with usually between $50 to $100 in each. We kept emphasizing a spirit of sharing and paying it forward. We had many events with large crowds but no negative incidents. That in itself is remarkable. Think about it - a large crowd assembled in one place for the purpose of finding a limited amount of money. Obviously, that has some potential for things to go wrong. Our followers deserve a lot of credit for being responsible. The vast majority participated in a fun and friendly spirit, in which this was intended. We had great events at the beach, where people searched the sand with their kids, at parks where they went out with their friends or made new friends, and literally around the world. In London, one searcher said you never chat with strangers in London, but he was making new friends as they tried to figure out the clues together. We are proud to say that, for the most part, our activities brought people together, in a spirit of cooperation and friendliness, not competition and greed. More than the money, I think people were - and are - hungry for a way to use social media to connect with others in a real life way. I think this is why Hidden Cash has grown so quickly and attracted so many followers. Most of us love our social media, but we also want to connect and do things together in real life.
And then there was Whittier... We planned to do 7 events over 4 days in the Los Angeles area. There was only one person in charge of selecting the venues, preparing the drops, hiding the money, contacting media, tweeting out clues, retweeting winners, etc. Every drop takes hours. This doesn't count traffic, and time needed to other activities like eating or sleeping. Things go wrong. Having barely slept in days, I fell asleep half an hour before I was supposed to tweet out clues for Spain. Riverside was hours late and not the best venue. Doing a drop at a small park in Whittier after dark was probably not the smartest idea. A large crowd turned out, and things got rowdy. Young men yelled obscenities on live TV. Sprinklers were broken, plants were trampled, fences were mangled. The city estimates the damage to the park at $5000. Today, I spoke with the city manager, Jeff Collier, who was very cordial, and I offered to pay this amount to compensate for damage to the park. I will be sending a check tomorrow for $5000. Not knowing LA county well, and feeling the time pressure to do so many drops in a short amount of time was not a good combination. Going forward, we will learn from this. As the crowds are big, event locations need to be selected even more carefully than we have so far, perhaps in consultation with local authorities. Night time events have a different energy, and as fun as they can be, we may suspend those for now. Other events all went very well, including those in "poor" parts of town, like East L.A.
Putting this one unfortunate incident aside, we want to emphasize how much we have enjoyed exploring the various parks and beaches in L.A. county and all the places we have visited, and how many of our followers wrote that they enjoyed the time spent with friends and family in the various parks where our events have taken place. And that they discovered or re-discovered some wonderful spots. We think overall we have actually done a lot of positive in encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors. California in particular is blessed with so many wonderful city, county, state, and national parks. We must treasure and respect these. That's an important message, and part of the reason we are paying to restore William Penn park in Whittier, CA.
Our movement has grown, and has given us a lot, but also taken a lot from us in terms of time and energy, not to mention money. We are a couple guys, not a big organization, and we don't have unlimited wealth either. Frankly, we are at a crossroads. As we figure out what's next, we thank you for your support and understanding. This has been a wonderful experience, and we hold our heads up high, and so should the vast majority of our followers.