Jeff White had an inkling that it was just a matter of time before the hidden cash craze would find its way to the Kansas City area.
He just didn’t expect that day to be as soon as Wednesday. Or that he and his sons would be among the first to collect a few dollars from it.
The phenomenon began a couple of weeks ago in California. An anonymous benefactor using a Twitter account called Hidden Cash began posting clues about where small amounts of money were concealed.
Since then, that original Twitter account has picked up close to half a million followers — and numerous copycat accounts have sprung up across the U.S., including in Florida, Texas and St. Louis. The excitement has gone global: The United Kingdom has its own Hidden Cash Twitter account
The online scavenger hunt has a vibe of generosity — indeed, two men who found $100 later Wednesday in Merriam gave the money to a co-worker to adopt a pet, organizers said.
That money came from the @HiddenCashKS account, which sent out its first tweet close to a week ago and has since been leaving clues to the locations of hidden cash across Kansas. By Wednesday, the account had 11,600 followers, and that number was continuing to climb.
The woman behind the @HiddenCashKS account, who asked to remain unnamed in keeping with the anonymous spirit of the initiative, said Wednesday that she started up the Kansas account thinking it would be a fun thing to do around her small town.
It didn’t take long for people to start contacting her in droves, wanting to donate or bring hidden cash to their own towns.
She helps coordinate the whens and wheres for the drops, and everyone else helps with hiding the cash. She wasn't sure how many people have helped out so far, but guessed that at least 60 people had helped with donating or hiding money.
“I call them my little minion droppers,” she said.
Emails have been pouring into email@example.com, as well. Since she cleaned out her inbox three days ago, she said, she’d received over 300 emails from people wanting to drop or donate money — or asking for money.
The average drop from @HiddenCashKS runs at about $30 to $40, she said.
With a single tweet at 8 a.m. Wednesday, HiddenCashKS pulled the Kansas City metropolitan area into the social experiment.
That tweet said, “Drop: Clue 1: Its a great day for golfing, Lenexa Kansas.”
When White, of Kansas City, Kan., read that, he had strong suspicions that it would be on the disc golf course in Shawnee Mission Park in Lenexa.
“I just happened to be off work and I had my boys,” White said. “I was like, ‘OK, let’s go find a scavenger hunt. They were all for it.’”
White quickly found shorts and shirts for his three sons, Jordan, 9, Kaleb, 7, and Lukas, 10.
“I told them to get shoes on that they could get wet because I knew grass would be wet,” White said.
By the time White had the boys ready to go, HiddenCashKS sent a second clue: “Lenexa, wait … Did you think we meant ball golf? … nope disc golf!” That confirmed that White’s suspicions were correct.
But the main question: Where on the course?
The third clue: The cash is where the 18th basket goes if the hole was playing short.
White and the boys made a dash to Hole 18 — and discovered they weren’t the first. Someone who was riding the course in a golf cart was already there and was opening the letter.
But he shared the money in the envelope with White and his kids and another person who showed up looking for the hidden cash. The envelope contained $36, which represented the final score of someone who birdies each hole on the course.
With his $20, White treated his sons to ice cream cones. He also was going to pay it forward by giving someone a discount on the power riding toys he sells.
“I think it’s great,” White said. “It gives people something to do, and you meet a lot of people.”
In the Merriam drop, Blake Perdieu was on his lunch break when the Hidden Cash craze caught his eye and he started following the HiddenCashKS account.
Perdieu works a couple of buildings over from where the cash drop happened, and when he saw the clues being tweeted, he immediately knew where to look. He grabbed a co-worker, and the two found $100 under a bench outside the Great Plains SPCA.
“I can’t believe I just found this, considering that I just found about about this three hours ago,” he said of his reaction.
The letter in the envelope instructed him to give back, so he gave the money to a co-worker so she could adopt a pet.
The cash drop also seemed to draw a crowd — Perdieu figured he saw about 15 or more cars showing up at the site.
Another account, @HiddenCashKC, sent out its first first tweet on Saturday. On Wednesday, the account was tweeting about upcoming cash drops in the Kansas City area.
As for the Kansas account, the founder said she knew about a couple of cash drops scheduled for that day, including the one in Merriam, but the exact schedule of upcoming drops has a habit of changing from moment to moment.
“You kind of have to watch Twitter,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t even know.”