BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – Just what exactly is this “Mystery Money” phenomenon, anyway?
It’s part scavenger hunt, part sight-seeing activity and part goodwill operation. “Mystery Money” was started in San Francisco, by a man whose idea was to give away money so that others would “pay it forward.” It has now spread to cities across the United States, including Buffalo.
Sunday, the fourth in the series of prizes was located by a lucky man from North Buffalo.
Here’s how it works: the local version of “Mystery Money” is sponsored by members of the Billoni family, who own Colvin Cleaners. They use their Twitter handle @mysterymoneybuf to send out clues as to where people can find hidden cash.
Sunday’s first clue read “William says, the main way to make a triangle, is to first put some Bailey’s in your coffee.”
“We were really excited to have people enjoying the city of Buffalo on Father’s Day. We were hoping they could come out with their fathers, or their family members,” said Megan Rechin, an employee of Colvin Cleaners who’s been designated as the “Twitter person” for Mystery Money.
“The clues are getting harder, because people are so good at finding them,” she said. “You were supposed to draw a triangle on the map. Didn’t have anything to do, really, with coffee. That was to throw you off.”
Those who’ve been following the scavenger hunt from the start know the clues lead to Buffalo landmarks, or places of historical or cultural significance. Plenty who drew the triangle formed by Main Street, William Street and Bailey Avenue zeroed in on the possible location.
“We kind of analyzed the first clue, figured out the triangle, and we looked at what the big landmark locations were in that triangle. And centered on Central Terminal,” explained Michael Melohusky, whose father joined him in the hunt.
“Colvin Cleaners wants people to see the beautiful parts of Buffalo,” said John Casali of Amherst. “So I figured, it has to be Central Terminal.”
If there was any doubt, the second clue erased it.
“Second clue, they showed a picture of the Central Terminal and said that it’s sunny out; it would be in a shady area. So I started digging around, brought me over to the pine tree over here, and that’s where it was!” said winner Jeff Altemus.
Altemus plans to split the $200 and two segway tour tickets with his son.
“It’s a nice Father’s Day gift!” he laughed.
More than the fun of the hunt, people seem to really be getting behind the “pay it forward” concept.
“I think it’s awesome. This is a great thing that they’re doing. It’s good for the city. And it’s fun!” Altemus said.
“It’s very nice. People are actually spending the time to pay it forward, which is nice to see nowadays,” said Melohusky.
“It feels excellent,” Rechin said. “I love Buffalo, and I love living here so much. And to be out, just personally, to be meeting the people and going to all the beautiful locations that there are. But as far as, with the Billoni family, they’re just so excited to be giving back to the community, and in such a fun way. It’s not even just ‘Here’s five bucks.’ It’s ‘Let’s go hunt for it with our family!'”
Rechin said she enjoys helping people discover hidden cultural gems, as much as the hidden cash.
“If you’re driving down Broadway, and you’ve never turned down this street ’cause you’re driving to work, or it’s snowy — you never know — you might not see this beautiful piece of architecture here,” she said.” Or you might not go down to the Outer Harbor if you don’t have a boat. We want people to kind of ‘staycation’ in Buffalo, and say, ‘Wow. I can’t believe I live in such an amazing place.”
Mystery Money will continue throughout the month of June. For the next clues, follow the contest on its Twitter page.