Comedian Doug Stanhope, a Bisbee resident, has helped raise more than $100,000 for a woman whose house was destroyed in the Oklahoma tornado last week.
Stanhope tells New Times that he started raising funds for Rebecca Vitsmun after her widely-seen interview on CNN, in which anchor Wolf Blitzer asked her if she "thank[ed] the Lord" for her family's decision to leave their house before it was destroyed by the tornado, and Vitsmun gave a response that became an instant classic -- she's actually an atheist.
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"I put out a tweet saying that it would be funny if someone set up a fund, just for her, as much as a reward as for charity," Stanhope says. "Then i just decided, fuck it, I'll do it, it can't be that hard. It then just went absolutely bat-shit."
Stanhope, who's not exactly shy about his distaste for religion in his comedy material or in public, started raising funds on a website with the hopes of getting $50,000 for Vitsum.
"It's important that our community shows that we have your back when you come out publicly as an atheist," Stanhope wrote on the website. "Let's show the world that you don't need to believe in a god to have human compassion nor does all charity fall under the banner of religion. Let's get this courageous woman and her family back in their own home."
He's raised more than $104,000 at the time of this post, and wrote in an update that the website won't let him change the deadline for raising funds, which he initially set at July 22, so he'll keep raising money for Vitsmun.
"There is no reason for us to stop raising funds," he wrote. "The median cost of a home in Moore, OK is $125,250, and that was back when they had homes."
Stanhope tells us he didn't even get into contact with Vitsmun until after he'd already raised $50,000 for her.
If you donate to the cause (website here), there are various perks you can get from Stanhope, which are hilarious (as long as you're not real touchy about religion). They include a prayer from Stanhope -- "twice as valuable as a real prayer or your money back" -- for $10, a "get out of hell free card" for a $50 donation, or even a dishwasher-safe holy grail with "special powers" for your $10,000 donation.
For those interested, he'll be in Flagstaff for a show on June 23rd.
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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.