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Vancouver man inspires hope on Downtown Eastside after searching for missing mask in Victoria

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According to the sign that Trey Helten made and placed on the side of the busy road, a mask was missing.

It featured a drawing of the brass diving helmet, along with its measurements, and a number to call if you knew anything about its whereabouts.

In big letters on the top of the sign, Trey wrote "Please Help."

Trey says the decorative diving helmet survived a devastating house fire.

“It was the only thing he had left of his mother.”

Was. Until someone stole it.

“I was the one who stole it,” Trey admits.

Trey says he then then sold the helmet to support his addiction, before hitting rock bottom, starting a 12-step program, and striving to make amends.

“It’s very important to me that I right this wrong,” Trey said in an interview with CTV News in 2016.

So, along with making the sign, Trey spent months searching second-hand stores for the helmet.

He never found it.

Until almost a year later, the man who ended up buying the helmet at a garage sale saw the CTV News story about Trey’s search and brought it to the station.

When CTV News presented it to Trey as a surprise, his elated laugh was soon replaced by appreciative tears. Now, he could finally right that wrong.

“It’s intense,” Trey said before knocking on the door of the house he stole from.

“It’s really scary facing it instead of running away.”

And it was really meaningful for the man who was finally reunited with the helmet, that last tangible reminder of his mom.

“I think he’s alright,” the man said, his anger towards Trey replaced by admiration “especially for what he’s done.”

While that one step on Trey’s road to recovery went well, countless others did not. But Trey never gave up on himself.

Five years later — thanks to a community that never gave up on him — Trey says he’s six and a half years drug free.

“As long as I’m working towards being a better person or rectifying behaviour,” Trey says of his daily work to stay sober. “I can find peace.”

Trey started paying his peace forward by volunteering at Vancouver’s Overdose Prevention Society, before working his his way up to the paid position of general manager.

“It feels good to help someone, obviously,” Trey says.

But it's something else entirely, during this complicated opioid crisis, to really show someone they’re not alone, and there is hope.

“I tell people, ‘This may be just a temporary thing in your life. This might not be forever,’” Trey says. “‘If you work for it, anything is possible.’”

Missing helmets can be found. Unforgivable actions can be forgiven. Broken lives can be mended.  

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