Alex Waterson was having a bad day.
It didn't start that way for the native New Zealander, who was in B.C. last week vacationing with her husband of two years. Admiring the Sea to Sky Highway's stunning scenery, the couple decided to pull over just outside of Pemberton to frolic in the snow.
Back in the car, Waterson quickly realized her diamond engagement ring and wedding band were nowhere to be found. Devastated, they returned to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park to hunt for the missing jewelry. After an hour and a half, darkness was falling and still nothing had turned up, so they packed up and got back on the road.
Just minutes later, their vehicle hit a patch of ice, swerved into an embankment, and flipped. Fortunately, the couple escaped with just minor injuries.
Waterson said she was just "glad we were alive," and that the accident helped put things in perspective. Still, she wanted to do everything she could to recover the rings, which understandably held a certain emotional significance for the couple.
"My husband chose the engagement band himself, and we had the wedding bands made with engravings on the inside," she said. "It holds all that sentimental meaning as well; I thought about the day I was given them and the day we exchanged our vows."
After a friend suggested renting a metal detector to help track down the wedding bands, she came across The Ring Finders website, a network of metal detector specialists founded by Vancouverite Chris Turner.
Skeptical at first, Waterson eventually met up with Turner and was immediately reassured.
"He's just such a genuine person and I definitely had faith that he could help us out," she said. "When I realized he doesn't charge a fee and you just pay him what you think is fair, that put me at ease as well because this guy actually wants to help, it's not about money."
Turner drove up from his Vancouver home, and after a search that lasted a little over an hour, Waterson's rings were found buried in the snow.
It's moments like these that have kept Turner going. He founded an earlier iteration of The Ring Finders nearly 20 years ago, sporadically helping people find their lost valuables with his metal detector when he could find time away from his day job. Several years ago, an Illinois man heard about what Turner was doing and asked him if he wanted to take his company to the next level. Turner said he did, but admitted he didn't have much money to invest. The man, despite never having met Turner, offered to pay for a website, and The Ring Finders network was born.
Today, there are over 230 Ring Finders members in 20 countries across the globe who've collectively recovered more than 1,100 items valued at $2.1 million. Turner, who has recovered over 300 rings himself, said "it's the greatest job in the world to see people smile."
It's clear that the metal detector specialist isn't in it for the money. He refuses to charge a fee for his services, only accepting a reward the client deems suitable, 15 per cent of which he then donates to B.C. Children's Hospital.
"I became very passionate about this 20 years ago when I made my first recovery and return and saw what it meant to the person," Turner said.
But it isn't just recently lost items like Waterson's that Turner helps find. He relishes the challenge of finding valuables that were written off decades ago, saying that he has even recovered rings that were missing for more than 20 years.
"I don't think there's a ring out there that doesn't have an emotional attachment," he added. "I always say every ring has a story, and when that ring is lost the story ends. What I do and what The Ring Finders members do is help continue that story."
Turner's website can be found at www.theringfinders.com.
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