A once-homeless Nanaimo man who returned a priceless diamond ring and captured hearts across Vancouver Island is enjoying his biggest Christmas Eve in years thanks to CHEK News viewers.
Raymond Ahlstrom's life has turned around since he did the right thing five days ago and today viewers who wanted to say thanks surprised him with a holiday to remember.
Walking into a Nanaimo restaurant Sunday Raymond Ahlstrom had no idea of the Christmas Eve that awaited him courtesy of a merry band of CHEK News viewers
"Merry Christmas," said Trisha Emde enthusiastically to the gathering group of people.
They all come armed with presents, groceries and a wish to say thanks to the Nanaimo man, who despite being homeless Tuesday returned Trinda Gajek's priceless diamond ring.
"Just want to pay it forward what he did was amazing," said Amanda Johnston. "Giving that ring back and going out to search it," said Johnston.
"Raymond restored a lot of our faith in the goodness in people," said Emde.
When he arrived, he was clearly taken aback.
"I think they're all waiting for you here," the owner of the MGM restaurant told him walking to the decorated table.
Then his face took in the smiling faces and presents and he made the connection we had hoped for.
"These are for me?" asked Ahlstrom. "Holy smokes," he said. "These are all for you," the crowd tells him.
"Merry Christmas Raymond," he read from a card atop one of the presents. "As bright as the star on top of the tree. Hope that's how your Christmas will be," he continued.
"Thanks, guys,' he said with a big smile.
The 52-year-old who was homeless up until CHEK News aired the story on his good deed returning the ring, received everything from a new winter coat to a handmade blanket and kettle for his new apartment.
Then Gajek, who was celebrating Christmas Eve on Salt Spring Island, called in.
"Merry Christmas," said Gajek, "it sounds like you are having a lovely time," she said.
After giving him a generous cash reward when he returned the ring, she now tells him she has set up a gofundme page to help him further.
All this moving Raymond to tears.
"With love," he said tearfully. "Thank-you," added Ahlstrom.
"Thank-you for everything you did for the community," replied Emde. "Just being there for each other is what Christmas is all about and he's just amazing," said Emde.
Ahlstrom said he will never forget this Christmas and judging by the faces gathered around, neither will we.