‘I begged strangers to pay for my divorce,’ says TikTok star and nurse

A TikTok star and hospice nurse has asked strangers to pay for her divorce to her husband of 10-years, using Crowdfunder to clear her debt.
Penny, a hospice nurse Crowdfunding her divorce, poses for a photograph

A TikTok star has revealed how she asked strangers to help pay for her divorce – fundraising thousands to end her 10-year marriage.

Penny Smith, 59, from Washington, US, recently shot to viral fame after sharing harrowing experiences of working in end-of-life care with her 440,000 TikTok followers (@hospicenursepenny).

Now, she has revealed a personal story of her own of how she fundraised money to ditch her husband, not named for privacy reasons.

Penny holds her first child, 2 years into her first mariage
Penny Smith in 1994 with her first child when she was 2 years into her first marriage. (Jam Press/@hospicenursepenny)

At the time, Penny knew she would struggle to keep afloat financially if she were to carry out her dream of becoming a nurse, especially without her partner’s income.  

So she turned to the internet for help, setting up a website called Help Me Leave My Husband.

“I am trying to earn enough money to pay for nursing school so my husband and I can divorce,” the mum-of-two wrote on the website.

“For the past nine years, I have been married to a man with whom I have nothing in common.

“He’s a great guy, he’s just not right for me, nor am I right for him.”

Penny poses with her second child.
Penny Smith with her second child in 1997. (Jam Press/@hospicenursepenny)

Penny came up with the savvy idea after hearing about a woman who did something similar but asked people to donate cash to help clear her debt.

“I was listening to the radio and heard about a woman who was [trying] to raise money for her credit card debt,” the nurse told NeedToKnow.Online.

“I thought if people were willing to donate money for her bad spending habits, maybe they would pay for me to become a nurse.

“My [ex] husband and I argued a lot and our relationship became more like that of siblings who fight all the time.

Penny poses with her two daughters on a family holiday
Penny Smith in Japan with her two daughters in 1998. (Jam Press/@hospicenursepenny)

“We both realised we enjoyed our time without each other more than being together.

“One night, after a heated argument, we both sat down and said let’s get a divorce.

“It was a mutual decision.

“I was a stay-at-home mum, homeschooling our two daughters and we both knew I would need to find a job.

“I applied for financial aid, but he made just enough money to not qualify me.

“I didn’t want to be in debt with school loans – so I started blogging my journey.”

Penny poses with her son and daughter
Penny Smith with her daughter and son. (Jam Press/@hospicenursepenny)

The site took off with people shocked by the unusual request and many donated their own money to help the nurse out.

Although she was happy for the support, Penny worried about what her ex-husband would think.

She said: “When I told him, he was upset and because of the [website] name, I think this implied it was my decision to leave.

“However, once he found out I had made some money, he decided he was OK with it and gave me the greenlight to show my face.

“The response [online] was mixed, but many people thought it was great and they loved my humour, as well as my mission.

“I didn’t mind [the haters] as I replied to their negativity with sarcasm and humour.

“[Most my friends and family] were supportive – however one of my friends accused me of throwing my [ex] husband under the bus.”

Penny poses in her nurses uniform after qaulifying
The picture Penny Smith posted on her website to show she graduated nursing school. (Credit: Jam Press/@hospicenursepenny)

Launching the site in 2002, Penny claims she raised $2,500 (£2,033) in total.

While she didn’t end up making enough to put her through nursing school entirely, she says the venture motivated her to succeed.

After finishing school, she met someone new and has now been happily married for 17 years.

Her new husband knows about her past and was very supportive.

She added: “We [were] at the tail end of nursing school and while I still had the website going, so he knew about it.

Penny with her current husband
Penny Smith with her current husband. (Jam Press/@hospicenursepenny)

“It was really fun to do something that made me feel like I wasn’t obsolete.

“In the end, I didn’t really make that much, but the accountability really motivated me to succeed.

“I got letters from people who said I had inspired them and one was from a 10-year-old girl, which was very special to me.

“I still would’ve [gone through nursing school] but would have been in debt for a while and the funds did contribute to becoming a hospice nurse.”

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