Homeless Teen's Story Questioned After $184,000 Donated

| by Zara Zhi
Fred Barley (left) and Casey Blaney (right)Fred Barley (left) and Casey Blaney (right)

A dispute over donation money for a homeless student has been settled after the woman who created the campaign revealed her doubts about the teen's story. More than $184,000 in donations was raised for 19-year-old Fred Barley, who is a student at Gordon State College in Georgia. Barley was discovered sleeping in a tent on campus and says he biked six hours to get to school.

Casey Blaney started the GoFundMe campaign to pay for the student’s tuition after she was moved by Barley’s story. Later, she exposed that she had doubts about it on Facebook and on the fundraising page.

“Unfortunately, multiple questions have been raised about Fred's story,” wrote Blaney.

“We've received conflicting information about his initial story, and we just want to make sure the donors and the public have all of the information available to them before the funds are transferred to a trust to pay for his education. 

“We just want to do the right thing, and we've asked for the campaign to be reviewed.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the two quarreled over how to manage the money. Blaney wanted to arrange a trust that was managed by a financial professional while Barley wanted more say in who oversaw the trust. announced on July 28 that it will freeze the campaign account until the young man’s story is verified. GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne said the funds are on hold “until all the questions have been answered.”

On Aug. 1 Barley posted on Facebook that the disagreement over the funds had been resolved:

So I have some great news for everyone that has been following the story. I will be allowed to put [the funds] into a trust that covers both living expenses and help with my tuition. Mrs. Blaney would like to turn over everything to her lawyer, and does not want anything to do with the trust account any longer. Together, my attorney and her attorney are working cooperatively to ensure that all assets donated go strictly to me and in a trust that I agree with.

Jimmy Tolbert, Barley’s uncle, said the teenager was not living with his family. Tolbert said that the student’s parents were not together and Barley had moved in with his mother years ago.

The uncle told AJC that Barley asked if he could stay with him a few weeks ago because he was homeless. The two discussed Barley moving to South Carolina to live with Tolbert, but the plans fell through.

Gordon College officials verified that Barley was enrolled at the school for his second semester. The community of Barnesville supported Barley but became dismayed and angry after Debbie Adamson, who gave the teen a job at her pizzeria, said he was leaving town to attend a different college.

“I've had so many people attack my intelligence, my life, my character , and even more important, my integrity. I have not lied to any of you, nor will I,” said Barley.

“I never told you guys I was a perfect student nor tried to portray it because I'm not.

“I never intended on being a role model for younger kids, or the nation's feel good story, but I'm glad God put the responsibility on me because it gives me a chance to say God is real to a much wider group of people. 

“And I know it seems like everything good in the world, always aborts to bad, but with God by my side I haven't been stricken by all the turmoil, it actually encourages me. 

“A lot of people have been trying to tell me that my name is being slandered in multiple ways, it's okay. I accept it with the most genuine love. 

“Whatever transpires between Casey and I, I want her to still know that I love her and forgive her.”

There have also been allegations that Blaney wanted to control the funds instead.

“I have never, and have no intentions of ever being listed on, or in control of the educational trust,” she wrote July 30 on the Success for Fred Facebook page.

“Hopefully, within the next few days, we will receive an initial proposal from Mr. Fred Barley’s attorney, to create a trust. That is our understanding of the next step.

“Once a trust has been created, GoFundMe will have the final decision as to whether to release those funds to the trust. No funds will ever be released to me.”

The pizzeria where Fred worked says he is reportedly back in town in an apartment and preparing for the start of school. Barley is a biology major and hopes to go to medical school after college.

Sources: Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Casey Blaney/GoFundMe / Photo credit: Casey Blaney via Atlanta-Journal Constitution

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