'Angel' behind touching Denny's story steps forward

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A man's act of kindness touched the hearts of millions last week after his story garnered attention on social media. The man paid for the meals of several families at a Denny's diner in Utah, and tipped his waitress $1500.

But before she could get the man's name, or even thank him, he was gone. The man was simply a stranger, capturing hearts around the country. That is, until now. 

Meet Briggs VanNess. 

When VanNess walked into the Denny's he simply asked to be served by a woman that was a single mother. Another waitress watched the encounter unfold as she assigned a waitress named Crystal-- a single mother to a little boy, and living in a homeless shelter--to serve VanNess. 

VanNess sat in a booth for hours on end, watching families come and go. According the waitress' post, what happened next is what took her by surprise. 

“Seven families came in and ate while you were there and you paid every one of their bills, over $1,000 you paid for people you didn’t even know,” she said. When she asked VanNess why he did it? His response was both simple and tragic.

“Family is everything, I’ve lost all mine,” he told her.

We asked VanNess more about his story, and why he wanted to be served by Crystal. 

"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 some how managed to survive," said VanNess. "But I watched and suffered for years as I watched her work her hands to the bone to give us a good life. She raised us to be kind and help others. 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."

Now, VanNess says his life is different, and finding himself, has him on a path to success.

"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, I'm a successful business owner and I help as many as I feel that need it."

One last act of kindness was done before VanNess left the diner--this one for Crystal. 

“Your bill was $21.34 and you left her a $1,500 tip, because of you she gets her new place next week, because of you seven families ate for free,” she wrote. “You left before any of us could say thank you, I hope you read this because you’re truly an amazing person and you stole the hearts of every one of us here. Thank you.”

VanNess did have clarification regarding the other people in the restaurant he helped. Contrary to the waitress' original post, VanNess said he paid around $600 and covered the bills of every diner in the restaurant at the time. 

Now there is a name to a face, and a woman whose life has been impacted by a simple stranger no more.