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Homeless man's good act pays big dividends

NEED TO KNOW
  • One irritating wedding band leads to hopeful story
  • Good Samaritan returns ring after it was accidentally donated
  • Hundreds of thousands donated to Billy Ray Harris
Pennies

A homeless man’s return of a misplaced engagement ring has generated good press, a budding friendship and more than $174,000 for good Samaritan Billy Ray Harris.

It began when Sarah Darling saw Harris panhandling on a Kansas City, Missouri, street and offered him spare change, according to her husband Bill Krejci. Darling forgot she’d placed her wedding and engagement rings in her change purse because they’d irritated her finger. When she dumped out all her change for Harris, she inadvertently gave him her engagement ring.

“She just wasn’t thinking and put everything from her change purse into his cup,” said Krejci, who has been married to Darling for two-and-a-half years.

Darling didn’t realize until the next day that her ring was missing and immediately determined where it could be.

“We kind of thought we might not have a chance to get this back,” Krejci said.  

The pair headed back to find Harris, who indeed did have the ring. He retrieved it from a hiding place under a nearby bridge.

Krejci was so thankful he began a 90-day Give Forward campaign to raise money for Harris.

As the story spread, donations ballooned. Currently, the fund stands at $174, 652, which is much more than the $1,000 Krejci hoped to raise. Krejci said even though he surpassed his initial goal, he plans to continue the drive for the duration.

“That’s the way I set it up and I wouldn’t want to change anything about it,” he said.

The accidental ring toss has had another effect: a blossoming relationship between the fifty-something Harris and Krejci.

“He’s just a really solid guy,” Krejci said of his newfound friend.  “I try to see him two to three times a week and we chat on the phone.”

Harris and Krejci have met three or four times since the saga began. Krejci says it's great to sit down and chat with Harris, and he’s very interested in learning about Harris' personal story.

“He’s very wise and astute. He’s really just lucid and a great communicator,” Krejci said. "I want to make sure we talk to each other and get to know each other."

Krejci has never asked about the circumstances that lead to Harris’ homelessness. He has learned Harris used to run equipment for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970's and traveled to the Super Bowl at least once.  

“In the '80's he worked in the oil field, so, he was telling me a lot of crazy stories about that,” Krejci said.

Today, Harris lives in a basement apartment offered by the bandleader of a group for which he used to run sound. Krejci said Harris also has retained legal counsel to help him manage his new income.

“At the end of the 90 days, the check is made [out to Harris]. I think he’s got it made where there’s a trust for him and it’s going into there,” Krejci said.

As for the ring that instigated this tale, Krejci said his wife hasn’t removed it from her finger since the incident.

“We actually found out it’s actually the wedding band that’s irritating her finger, not the engagement ring,” he said. Now she just wears the engagement ring. 

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