NEW YORK (CNN) — Sonia Lemel and Rachel May Adams were running a 10K race at Manhattan’s Central Park Saturday when they heard about the “@HiddenCash” scavenger hunt.
“We found the envelope by the pond at the foot of the bridge, hidden right behind the railing,” Lemel said of the lucky find — a $50 bill and silver dollar. “It was really exciting. It’s our drinking money later when we watch the World Cup games.”
The social experiment is the brainchild of California real estate investor Jason Buzi, 43, who is hiding envelopes of cash in public places across the country and posting clues the whereabouts on his Twitter page.
What started as an anonymous act of giving in the San Francisco Bay area has turned into a nationwide search. Buzi revealed his identity on Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“I’ve done well and some of my friends that are involved with it have done very well as well, and we wanted to give back.” Buzi said. “This was like a fun way to give back to the community.”
The “Hidden Cash” craze has hit Brooklyn, Las Vegas and Houston, Buzi told CNN. Chicago is next on Sunday.
The Twitter page features selfies of people who found the money — typically smiling and holding the cash — with testimonials of what they intend to do with it.
“We just want to encourage people to pay it forward,” Buzi told CNN.
Kurt Dee, who discovered an envelope with $50 and a a coin in Central Park, agreed.
“My family and I were really going to plan to get Father’s Day dinner today because my dad’s working tomorrow,” he said. “So I’m telling them I’m going to pay for dinner tonight, which is awesome.”
Another winner, Stephanie Culff, held a $50 bill. “Since its Father’s Day, I’m gonna give this to my dad and he can use it as he wishes. Happy Father’s Day,” she said.
People enjoy the excitement of the hunt.
“When you first see the white envelope on the ground and you know that it’s out there, it’s like your heart just completely stops and you’re just like, ‘Oh my god, I just won,'” Dee said. “So the first thing I did was yell, ‘I got it, I got it!'”
Buzi said he has handed out nearly $15,000 since May 23.
“We’re planning on giving a lot more,” he said.
He plans to take the giveaway to Paris, London, and Madrid next month.