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In 2014, Mark Stopa, a Tampa-based lawyer, decided to give away a house for free. Little did he know how many lives would be affected by his goodwill.
As a foreclosure attorney, Stopa has helped many people, but he felt compelled to do more for others. One night, his 8-year-old son asked, “Why don’t you give away a house, Daddy?” After careful consideration, the law firm owner decided that was a great idea.
Stopa launched a contest asking families to submit letters on why they should win the free home. “Narrowing down the volume of letters that I received to the five finalists and, ultimately, the one winner was an extremely difficult process,” he said.
In the end, Moriah Barnhart was selected. Stopa was moved by the single mother and her daughter, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013. “You end up basically losing everything to try to save your child’s life,” Barnhart said.
“I couldn’t say no to her,” Stopa explained of his decision to give her the free house. Barnhart proved to be a leader in the cancer community, making the time to help other families while going through her own ordeal.
Stopa’s benevolent efforts didn’t end there. He ended up giving $5,000 to each of the four finalists who didn’t win the house, so long as they also raised a matching $5,000 to be donated to the Mr. Strong Foundation. The nonprofit, which helps special needs children, received $20,000 as a result of Stopa’s giveaway.
“One person can make a difference in the community,” he said. “One person can create change.”