But the self-made US millionaire has ended his cause. Mr Ross says that the money has now gone. "I've achieved my goal. I've given it all away," said the 83-year old. But he doesn't regret a moment of it. "In many respects, I'm far richer today than when I started," he told readers of his syndicated newspaper column, "Thanks a Million".
Mr Ross, who lives in Minnesota, made one fortune from fur and then lost it, but made a second with a company that made plastic film and rubbish bags. Then one day, he gave away a thousand bicycles to children and found that he liked giving as much as he did accumulating.
Ten thousand letters a week flooded in to his column from readers in need of cash, and Mr Ross gave away $20-30m. Hospitals, people seeking dental care, recreation centres and those who were simply poor benefited from his largess.
He gave $50,000 to bring Vietnam refugees to the US, and even offered the former Iranian theocrat Ayatollah Khomeini $50m to return American hostages in the 1980 US embassy crisis.
"This has been a lesson in human emotion and I walk away a more educated person for having dealt with thousands and thousands of letters," he said. "I'll continue to seek financial opportunities in our capitalistic society. In other words, I need to get a job. And, if by chance I can make another pile of money, I'Il be back giving it away."Reuse content