When Billy Ray Harris was spare-changing under a bridge in Kansas City earlier this year, Sarah Darling dropped some money into his cup, out of charity.
However, she also gave Mr. Harris an accidental bonus – her engagement ring. Ms. Darling was wearing her ring earlier in the day, but began to develop a rash on her finger and removed the ring, storing it in her purse. As a result, among the handful of coins Ms. Darling gave to Mr. Harris on that cold day was the ring her fiance Bill Krejci had given her to celebrate their engagement.
“It was horrible,” Ms. Darling said in interviews. “It meant so much to me beyond just the financial value.”
As Mr. Harris later told local TV station KCTV, “The ring was so big that I knew if it was real, it was expensive.” He kept it for two days until Ms. Darling returned. She tried the following day but was unable to locate Mr. Harris. The following day, she managed to find him.
“She squatted down€¦ right there and says, “Do you remember me?” And I was like, “I don”t know, I see a lot of faces.” She says, “I might have gave you something very valuable.” I said, “Was it a ring?” And she says, “Yeah.” And I said, “Well, I have it.”” Mr. Harris told KCTV.
After hearing the story behind the return of his fiancee”s ring, Mr. Krejci started a GiveForward.com donation page, telling the story and asking for donations for Mr. Harris. He and Ms. Darling said they expected to get about $1000. The GiveForward.com page for Mr. Harris, made by Mr. Krejci, calls Mr. Harris a “great man,” and lists a target for donations of $1000.
But so far over 7, 000 people have donated and the sum to be given to Mr. Harris stands at $166,435. Mr. Krejci has been in touch with Mr. Harris several times since the ring was returned and has documented his experiences as posts on GiveForward.com, where he describes talking about passing Ms. Darling”s engagement ring down to their daughter, and speaking to Mr. Harris about their fathers” parallel military service in Vietnam.
Donors to the site have frequently chosen to comment, and several call Mr. Harris an “inspiration,” claiming, as an anonymous donor of $5 did, that Mr. Harris” act had “reminded me that there is still good in this world.” Donor Pat Bowen said, “You have restored my faith in people.”
But what does Mr. Harris say? He admits to considering pawning the ring, saying, “I had a little devil on my shoulder, saying, “Keep the money,”” and attributes his decision to return it to his grandfather, who raised him.
“My grandfather was a reverend, he raised me from the time I was six months old, and thank the good Lord, it”s a blessing, but I do still have some character.”
And what does Mr. Harris think of the £100k that will be coming his way in 75 days when the 90-day fundraising campaign expires? “I like it,” he says, “but I don”t think I deserve it.” While Mr. Harris has been quick to capitalise on his good fortune, buying a new bike and looking for a permanent place to live, he remarked, “What I really feel is, “what is the world coming to, when a person gives back something that doesn”t belong to them and all this happens?””
Mr. Krejci says Mr. Harris is considering buying a property in Texas, where he has some family, and is now staying with a friend in Kansas City. He says Mr. Harris has “a very solid plan and a very solid way of making it happen.”