The woman who launched a wildly successful GoFundMe page for a Black, homeless college student is now questioning his story after a disagreement over how the donated funds should be spent. Due to her suspicions, GoFundMe has frozen access to the $184,000 in donated money.
Barnesville, Georgia woman Casey Blaney started the crowdfunding page for 19-year-old Fred Barely, whose story of triumph in the face of defeat captured the hearts of people across the country. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Barley told people he was homeless after embarking on a 50-mile bike ride from Conyers to Barnesville to register for his second semester at Gordon State College. Police officers reportedly found the young man living in a tent on campus, after which they paid for his lodging at a local motel with money from their own pockets.
The teen’s sad story compelled Blaney to launch a GoFundMe campaign, which received some some 5,700 donations over a span of 12 days. Barley expressed his gratitude to the Barnesville woman and could be seen thanking her in a series of posts and videos uploaded to Blaney’s Facebook page.
But a rift occurred in the newfound friendship when Barley objected to Blaney’s plans of what he should do with the $184,000 he received in donations. According to the AJC, the college student posted a message to Facebook saying he disapproved of Blaney’s plans to place the funds in a trust; the only way he would agree to doing so was if he could choose an attorney and trustee on his own.
Blaney halted donations to the fund last week due to the “sheer size of the amount given,” and announced that the money received so far would be placed in a fun11d, the publication reports. But beforehand, there appeared to be no stipulations that forced Barley to agree with her plans on how to spend the money or who to trust it with.
Blaney later replied to the teen’s post on her “Success for Fred” Facebook page Wednesday evening.
“Unfortunately, multiple questions have been raised about Fred’s story,” she wrote. “We’ve received conflicting information about his initial story. … We’ve asked for the campaign to be reviewed.”
It’s unclear exactly what questions were raised, but officials at GoFundMe have since frozen the account and are currently investigating Barley’s claims.
“The funds raised are placed on hold and cannot be withdrawn until all the questions have been answered,” GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne said in a statement. “… If they are not, we will refund the donors.”
A petition has since been launched for GoFundMe to release the money back to Barley.
“Freddy Kennedie Barley has NOT spoken with [Blaney’s] lawyers nor has he approved a trustee for this “Trust” fund,” it reads. “Please sign our petition to stop the non-sense, have this young mans money released and let this young man continue to be responsible for his own future.”
The petition has since garnered over 2,000 signatures.
Since the debacle, the New York Times reported that Barley went into hiding after being accused of taking the money and fleeing, even though funds from the account have yet to be disbursed.
The teen released this statement late Wednesday evening.
Blaney was also accused of keeping the donated money for herself, according to the New York Times. She’s only speaking through her attorney,Wright Gammon, at this time.
“The only person getting hands on the money is Fred if he’s in school and the trustee that’s going to make the decisions as to when and how much to pay,” Gammon told the AJC.