'Brimming with energy' after $20K stem cell treatment

Jennifer Vasilakos got the shocking surprise of her life after helping a man who stopped to ask her for directions. That man happened to be the billionaire founder of the Beanie Baby company and what he did may have saved her life. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

By Kristen Dahlgren and Erica Ayisi, NBC News

What started out as a modest fundraising event held in a Santa Barbara, Calif., parking lot has turned into a life-changing moment for Jennifer Vasilakos, thanks to a chance meeting with Beanie Baby billionaire Ty Warner.

It all began ina parking lot in July of last year. Vasilakos, 42, set up a table near her hometown's annual Santa Barbara French Festival to raise money for stem cell treatment, displaying signs and flyers that explained her cause.She also brought a small moneybox to stash cash made from parking cars for festival-goers.

Equipped with sunglasses, a water bottle and coffee, Vasilakos was prepared to spend the day raising awareness and telling people her personal story that she was diagnosed with acute renal failure in 2011 and had received dialysis three times a day, three times a week. It was a grueling regimen that she would endure the rest of her life. A kidney transplant wasnt an option; she had been rejected as a candidate because of a previous bout with cancer.

Vasilakos, aReiki teacher and herbalist,decided her only option was to save up for stem cell treatment a costly procedure that is not performed in the United States.

But as the day wore on, her moneybox largely remained empty. The festival, she said, was completely dead.

That's when a lost driver in a small little car drove up, looking for directions. Jennifer chatted him up.

Louis Lanzano / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ty Warner, Beanie Baby creator and chief executive of Ty Inc., arrives at the Toy Fair to sign

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'Brimming with energy' after $20K stem cell treatment

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