A homeless man in Kansas City, Mo., made national headlines more than a week ago when he returned a valuable platinum and diamond engagement ring accidentally dropped into his cup of change by a woman offering some extra cash. Now, hundreds of donors have contributed more than $16,000 to a page on GiveForward.com to help Billy Ray Harris get his life back on track. The man’s rewards don’t stop with financial help — the media story helped him connect with a brother in Lubbock, Texas, he hasn’t seen in nearly 30 years.
KCTV first did a story on the unintended donation Feb. 9. Sarah Darling had put her engagement ring in her change purse because it was bothering her finger. A chance encounter with Harris on the street led Darling to give the man her loose change. It was only a day later that she realized her engagement ring was missing. When she came back to Harris on the same street, he still had the ring and gave it back to her.
The New York Daily News reveals when the woman and her husband returned, they gave the homeless man all the cash she had on her — around $40 to $60. Then Bill Krejci, who is a web designer, was inspired by some media outlets’ websites where people asked how they could help. Enter GiveForward.com.
For the next 90 days, anyone can donate money for Harris. The homeless man cited his reverend grandfather, who raised him since he was 6 months old, as the reason for his character trait that returned the ring to the woman. Individual donations from as little as $5 up to $500 have poured intoGiveForward.com for Harris.
One comment from the Young family, who donated $250, said, “This story was on CNN and it was touching that someone with so little was so thoughtful and understanding. … This was a unique opportunity to celebrate a good news story and act of kindness.” The CNN piece was on Soledad O’Brien’s show Monday.
The goal was the raise $1,000 for Harris in three months. Instead, more than $16,000 has been given to the cause in just a few days.
Krejci posts updates on the donation website. The most recent one, dated Wednesday, called all of the donors “awesome… over the past few days.” Further, the web designer states he’ll be having lunch with Harris in the next few days. Also, the homeless man is staying with a guy who helps run sound for a band. Krejci calls the amount of donations “unreal.”
So what will happen to Harris now? MyFoxLubbock.com reports Edwin Harris, Billy Ray’s older brother, wants his sibling to come home to Lubbock, Texas. The brothers lost touch and have tried to find each other over the past 27 years. When the older brother saw Billy Ray’s story on the Internet, he got in touch and the two talked for 45 minutes. Edwin Harris hopes to bring his brother back to Texas in mid-March.
KCTV reveals Robin Harris, the men’s sister, lives in Wichita Falls, Texas. She also saw the national story and got in touch with her homeless brother thanks to Betsy Webster, the original television reporter who broke the story.
Billy Ray Harris hesitates to come home because he doesn’t want to be a burden to his family. Perhaps more than $16,000 will help change his mind.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.