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Strangers rally to raise $180,000 for homeless student who biked 6 hours to college, slept in tent

Fred Barley left his hometown for college earlier this month with nothing more than a tent, some clothes and a few gallons of water.
/ Source: TODAY

Fred Barley left his hometown for college earlier this month with nothing more than a tent, some clothes and a few gallons of water.

Now, about two weeks later, he has so much more — including over $180,000 in the bank — thanks to the kindness of strangers.

In early July, the 19-year-old rode his little brother's bike 50 miles to Barnesville, Georgia, where Gordon State College is located.

Fred Barley after receiving donations from thousands of strangers.Courtesy of Casey Blaney

The dorms don't open until August, but Barley wanted to get there early to register for classes, so he found some bushes on campus and pitched his tent, local WSB-TV reported.

He didn’t mind calling it home for a few weeks. Barley, who was in his second semester at the school, is homeless and had brought everything he owned from Conyers, a small town some 25 miles east of Atlanta.

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On July 9, after spending the day job searching, Barley was in his tent resting when police approached and asked him to come out with his hands up, according to a friend's account.

But as soon as they heard his story and saw the single box of cereal he'd packed for food, they took him to a motel and got him a room for a few nights.

Fred with Casey Blaney at DB's Pizzeria, where he was hired on the spot.Courtesy of Casey Blaney

Two days later, local resident Casey Blaney, who had heard about the officers' act of kindness, went to find him to ask what she could do to help.

He told her, "Ma'am, if someone could just help me find a job, I'll be OK,” according to Blaney.

RELATED: Man meets homeless woman every week for lunch to teach her how to read

So Blaney launched a GoFundMe campaign to help the young biology major, who dreams of going to medical school, get on his feet.

In just eight days, she raised $184,000.

Barley with new mountain bike and running shoes that were donated to him by a stranger.Courtesy of Casey Blaney

She also worked out a deal with the motel owner to extend Barley's stay at a discounted rate.

And while she was planning to take Barley around town to fill out job applications, local pizza shop owner Debbie Adamson came across his story on Facebook and made the decision to hire him.

"Based on what I read about him, it was clear he had the drive and determination I look for in an employee," Adamson told TODAY.

Barley was hired before he even walked through the door of DB's Pizzeria and was in the kitchen washing dishes the very next day.

"He's such a hard worker with great manners," Adamson said. "He's a joy to have around."

Since the GoFundMe was posted, Barley has heard from thousands of strangers offering him everything from a new bike to a job and, of course, college tuition money.

Fred basking in the joy of having his own private bathroom immediately after arriving at the motel room.Courtesy of Casey Blaney

This week, he posted two videos thanking supporters for their generosity and promised to keep them updated on his grades every semester to let them know their money isn't going to waste.

"All of this has been so overwhelming, I'm just in total shock and kind of speechless," Barley said in a Facebook video.

"I love you all and want to make you proud," Barley said. "Hopefully you guys are all there the day I graduate and I'll wave out to the crowd to all of you."