TODAY | September 01, 2013
we do want to update you that morning on a homeless man we first featured here on "today" back in february. it's tough to forget his story. billy ray harris was on the street asking for change when a woman accidentally dropped her ring into the cup. he didn't sell it. gave it back. and that changed his life for the better. panhandling used to be a way of life for billy ray harris. but these days he has a new home, a new car, a new lease on life.
>> when i think of the past, i think thank god that it's over. i feel human now.
>> in february a homeless billy ray sat in his usual spot hoping for spare change when sarah darling accidentally dropped her engagement ring in his cup.
>> i didn't really look. i was walking by and i just kind of went like that.
>> billy ray did think about selling the precious piece of jewelry.
>> just couldn't do it. i'm not saying -- i'm no saint but i'm no devil either.
>> but instead held on to it waiting for sarah to return. a few days later she did.
>> it's such a feeling of loss when it was gone and so i was so eternally grateful for you.
>> so grateful sarah and her husband, bill, set up a fund for billy ray . his story made national headlines.
>> her engagement ring --
>> a homeless missouri man --
>> immediately returned the ring.
>> and led to an appearance on our show.
>> a lot of people who had been touched by the story had expressed interest in helping billy ray , and we set the goal for $1,000.
>> the donations far surpassed their goals n. three months they raised more than $190,000. but that wasn't all. billy ray was about to get another surprise. a reunion with the family he hadn't seen in more than 16 years.
>> this is a really big surprise.
>> these days he and his family are working on their relationship as billy ray adjusts to his new life and newfound fame in kansas city .
>> just some of the same people but only now instead of giving me change they come up and shake my hand. hey, good job.
>> billy ray sought legal counsel and put the money in a trust. he was able to buy that new car.
>> it feels good.
>> and he's put a down payment on a house.
>> doing a lot of the work myself. it feels good, you know. just to be able to think of buying a house. when they call it the american dream .
>> soon he plans to start his own business.
>> i'm thinking about getting a pickup to haul around a paint gun, two ladders and some other painting equipment and doing my own thing.
>> he definitely seems his spirit has been rejuvenated. he has a chance to express himself more, you know, buy a new car and buy new clothes.
>> just a solid guy and you can tell he's probably going to make it out all right.
>> they still see each other every few weeks. on this day he's showing off his new ride.
>> i've heard he doesn't know how to drive. we'll see.
>> but what billy ray would really like to show is gratitude to everyone who supported him.
>> i want to thank all the people that helped me out. i wanted them to see all their efforts of kindness.
>> it's a great story, and we were so looking forward to the update. it's amazing, too, how many lives we touched, over $ed 191,000. 8,300 plus people donated. many people drawn into the story.
>> it's good to see they keep in touch, too.
>> isn't that nice? they have really developed this it relationship when they were here we all noticed.
>> changed his life on so many levels.