The mysterious man who has been dubbed the “Denny’s Angel” has now been identified. The generous stranger is 25-year-old Briggs VanNess of Colorado’s Grand Junction.
Love What Matters—a website dedicated to heartwarming stories—published a story on April 1, describing the actions of a mysterious stranger in a Utah Denny’s restaurant.
After sitting in the Denny’s for two hours, VanNess left his waitress—single mother, Crystal—a $1,500 tip on his $21.34 bill. Because of VanNess’s generosity, Crystal was able to move herself and her son out of the shelter they were living and into her own residence.
VanNess, right, with friends in Denver, Colorado.
In addition to helping out Crystal, VanNess paid for the meals of seven other families in Denny’s that day, according to the Love What Matter’s Facebook post. As of April 14, the post has almost 400,000 likes and over 180,000 shares.
VanNess, a business owner, opened up to a Houston news outlet about his generosity.
“I grew up with a single mother of six—we were poor and homeless a lot. I’d spend many nights at my mother’s friends’ houses, my mother was dying from cancer but somehow managed to survive,” VanNess said. “I watched and suffered for years as I watched her work her hands to the bone to give us a good life.”
VanNess praised his mother— “She raised us to be kind and help others”—but her sacrifice couldn’t save VanNess from his own “demons,” as he called them.
“Many years down the road I was facing prison and getting in trouble and it ended up causing me to lose my family because I was a really terrible person. Many years of fighting my demons, I finally found the light. Now I’ve been helping others as I was raised to do, I spent many years becoming a better person. And now it’s time to pay it back … and I help as many as I feel that need it.”
VanNess, on the right in the image below, has been inundated with love and support on Facebook. “I’m a little at a loss for words at the moment,” wrote VanNess on April 13, “I have received sooooo many messages, and can’t be more happy then to hear all the amazing things you all have to say.”