by: PAMELA THOMAS - Molalla River MIddle School Sixth-graders Yuleimi Maldonado and Max Kavanagh work on their knitting with donated yarn Friday. It was Max's mother, Kerry Kavanagh who bought the skein of yarn that had the $100 'Benny Bill' tucked inside it. When Molalla River Middle School sixth-grade teacher Pamela Thomas opened a skein of wool for her school knitting club, she found a $100 bill tucked inside with the name “Benny” written on it.

As it turns out, the bill was one of many signed $100 bills enclosed in Salem-are store items as a nice surprise for lucky shoppers by someone who has been dubbed “Benevolent Benny.”

Thomas, who started the knitting club in January, said students go to her classroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays during their lunch period.

“I am teaching them to knit scarves, but my goal is to have the kids knit hats to donate to children's hospitals,” Thomas said.

“One of my parents, Kerry Kavanagh, donated many skeins of beautiful yarn and several pairs of knitting needles. She bought them at the Broadway Fred Meyer in Salem. On Tuesday I unwrapped one of the skeins and found a folded up, brand new $100 bill tucked inside.”

Thomas naturally assumed the money belonged to Kavanagh and immediately called her and let her know.

“She didn't remember losing $100, and she said I could use it for the knitting class, but I sent it home with her son, Max, anyway,” Thomas said.

Kavanagh let Thomas know the $100 bill really wasn’t hers — she hadn’t put it into the wool and had not lost it. And she wanted Thomas to keep it and use it for her club.

About then, Thomas learned that the $100 “Benny bill” was one of at least 20 that had been hidden inside store items for sale in Fred Meyer and other Salem-area stores. The bill in Kavanagh’s skein of knitting yarn was folded into fourths and had the name Benny written on it in blue ink.

“Kerry has now officially donated the $100 back to my knitting club,” Thomas said Friday. “We will use the funds to purchase additional yarn for our projects.”

Benny’s generosity has helped other people pay their electric bill, buy needed prescription medication, and even provide a homeless person shelter for a couple of nights. It also, as in Kavanagh’s case, motivated people to pay it forward and donate to a favorite cause.

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