It started as a family joke: Facing snowballing medical expenses for their two young disabled children, Gregg and Brittiny Peters quipped they might need to sell everything they owned to stay solvent. As the bills tipped $10,000, however, the idea was no longer funny.
So on Thursday, the Georgia couple accepted a winning $20,000 eBay bid for all their belongings minus their house. It came with one catch. The winning bidders, Donnia and Keith Blair of Texas, want the family to have the money, but keep their stuff.
Seems like the perfect happy ending, except the Peters don't want the money. They say the whole idea was to start over, not take a handout.
The decision is out of their hands, the Blairs say.
"They've worked really hard to get those things and we're in a position to help them," Donnia Blair told The Associated Press Friday. "She can just act like they're my storage facility."
The Peters' lives and finances changed dramatically last April, when their 2-year-old son Noah was diagnosed with autism and with sensory and gastrointestinal disorders. Then in the summer, doctors diagnosed their 7-year-old daughter Ayla with juvenile arthritis. They also have a 1-year-old son, Eli.
Special treatment for the two older children costs about $2,000 a month and the Peters are carrying a $1,400 mortgage on their house in a suburban area about an hour north of Atlanta, said Brittiny Peters, a stay-at-home mom whose husband runs a tennis academy for middle and high school students.
They soon began keeping a list of what they could give away — a jogging stroller here, a dining table there.
"Then it kind of hit us both, let's just sell it all," she said, explaining the couple figured "we will buy these things again some day."
They listed approximately $40,000 worth of items on the popular online auction, from DVDs and leather coats, to the king-sized bed where the family had Saturday morning pillow fights, according to a Web site set up by well-wishers trying to help the couple.
The Peters spent Friday morning trying to persuade the Texas family to accept their belongings, which include a 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe. They even tried to retract the couple's bid.
"They are apparently not willing to take our stuff," Brittiny Peters said. "They're purchasing them to give them back to us."
Now they aren't sure what their next step is.
They are also trying to figure out what to do with money raised on the Web site, www.everythingweown.org. They didn't ask for the money and their efforts to return donations have upset some people, Brittiny Peters said.
The Peters are perfectly willing to stick by the bargain. But the Blairs — who wouldn't give details on how they can afford to give away $20,000 — won't budge.
"We've really been blessed the last few years and we saw an opportunity to help," Donnia Blair said.