AN internet campaign to raise money for a homeless man who returned a diamond engagement ring to a woman after it fell into his cup has so far raised over $160,000 (€122,000).
As of 9am this morning, nearly 7,000 people have donated to a fund to reward Kansas resident Billy Ray Harris, with the ever-growing total now well that mark.
And the fund could still grow considerably, as there are 78 days to go before the 90-day appeal ends.
The campaign was set up by the fiancé of Sarah Darling, who accidentally dropped her engagement ring into Mr Harris’ cup while giving him spare change.
Mr Harris discovered the ring about an hour after Ms Darling gave him the money and, although he says he knew it was incredibly valuable, he decided to hold on to it, rather than cash it in.
“The ring was so big that I knew if it was real, it was expensive,” Mr Harris told local television station KCTV, before adding that he’d had a hunch the owner would return for it and so decided to keep it safe.
Mr Harris, who usually sleeps under a bridge, said that a distraught Ms Darling returned to him two days later after failing to find him the previous day.
He told KCTV: “She squatted down like you did 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’.
Ms Darling described the find as a miracle, adding that she “was so incredibly upset, more than just the value of the ring, it had sentimental value.”
Ms Darling said she rarely took her ring off but that day she had developed a small rash on her finger, so decided to keep it in her purse for safekeeping.
Ms Darling’s fiancé Bill Krejci was so moved by Mr Harris’ kindness that he set up a GiveForward.com donation page.
Originally designed for friends of the couple to make small donations, the appeal exceeded its $1,000 target within the first couple of days.
Now, just 12 days into the 90-day campaign, the total raised stands at over $163,000- all of which will be given to Mr Harris directly.
In explaining why he chose not to pawn the ring, Mr Harris said it was due to his religious background.
He told KCTV: “My grandfather was a reverend. He raised from the time I was six months old and thank the good Lord. It’s a blessing but I do still have some character.”
Bill Ray Harris' donation page can be found at Giveforward.com/billyray