FindMePhilly began with a simple idea that fostered into a game of citywide hide and seek — well maybe not so much hide. Under the alias Benjamin Franklin, one man offers Philadelphia residents the chance at $100 if they piece together where he is from his Instagram photos before his timer goes off in 13 minutes.
A few weeks ago FindMePhilly came to Drexel University. Scrolling through the Instagram account, one can see pictures of sites he visited around campus looking for winners. The Main Building, the infamous Anthony J. Drexel statue that resides outside of Gerri C. Lebow Hall and the “Running Free Horses” sculpture behind the Daskalakis Athletic Center all appear. However, the only winner found on Drexel’s campus was not a Drexel student but student from the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
It’s now been about a month since the game began Jan. 17 — Benjamin Franklin’s birthday. That day the Instagram account FindMePhilly, posted multiple pictures from Ben Franklin sites around the city — from Benjamin Franklin’s grave on Independence Avenue all the way to the infamous Ben-Franklin-on-the-bench statue on University of Pennsylvania’s campus.
For the sake of the game’s integrity, the man behind FindMePhilly wishes to remain anonymous, but he got together with The Triangle to talk about what the game means to him — excitement, generosity and the overall betterment of the Philadelphia community.
“I want to start a discussion now about giving and about giving back, whether it’s time or money,” FindMePhilly said, conveying that the game was really about starting a movement more than anything. “I want to change the mood of this city.”
Each winner of the games gets a video taken in front of the landmark they’ve found FindMePhilly in front of, proudly displaying the $100.
“What are you going to do with the money?” FindMePhilly’s voice asks from off-screen.
Answers range from paying car-insurance and bills, to donating the money to the homeless, to indulging in some of the Philadelphia life’s more simple pleasures like buying pizza and beer.
The first winner of the game was a waitress who sprinted away from her shift at a bar to meet FindMePhilly at The Thinker statue, which greets visitors of the Rodin Museum on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. FindMePhilly smiled, recalling how the woman was out of breath when she got there a few minutes before the timer went off.
It was this first winner that decided she was going to give back to the Philadelphia community with the money and try and feed the homeless.
“She went out and bought a pizza and walked around the city and tried to give pizza to homeless people with all the money I had given her.” FindMePhilly recounted, “I was almost in tears when I saw that the next day. She posted it on Instagram and tagged me in it.”
FindMePhilly says that there’s no telling how long the game will last. He’s been using his limited personal finances to fund the game so far. He said that he has everything he needs in his life and wants to use this money give to others and inspire others to give in turn.
With any luck, FindMePhilly is hoping to partner with other individuals, companies or businesses that are also interested in the betterment and generosity in the Philadelphia community. With a little help from a few sponsors he said he could continue with the project for an extended amount of time.
“If I can get someone who has deeper pockets than I do, I will do this forever,” he said. “I don’t know how long I can do it, but I want to do it as long as I possibly can.”
The game gets people out into the city, encompasses all of Philadelphia and gets locals biking and running through the streets excitedly looking for certain landmarks, having fun and enjoying the city around them. Part of the game’s mission is also to get locals to indulge in, value and learn more about the very city they live in.
“I want to put people in a better mood. I want them to explore the city and I want them to appreciate the city. I want people to learn about these things that I’m taking pictures of,” FindMePhilly said.
FindMePhilly only carries $100 on him at a time so there can only be one winner per location but he stresses that the game isn’t really about the money at all.
“It’s not about winning $100 now. It originally was. But it can be so much more,” FindMePhilly said of his goals for the project. “I’m waiting for the next person to win to take that $100 and go give to a homeless person down the street. Someone to take that $100 and not even want it for themselves, just want to do good with that money.”
To get involved and play along follow FindMePhilly on Instagram and Twitter, but be ready to run, because once the picture’s posted you’ve only got 13 minutes.