Homeless man rewarded for re-lighting candles

Women treat Tony Backe to Saturday makeover

ORLANDO, Fla. – A homeless man who took it upon himself to re-light every candle at the memorial to the victims of the Pulse massacre was rewarded for what many call a selfless act.

News 6 first introduced Tony Backe the day after the city's first candlelight vigil.

Backe said he was going to stay at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to make sure the candles stayed lit.

His story moved two friends, who said they wanted to do something nice for him.

"I was amazed that somebody who doesn't have the luxuries of life actually went out of his way and was filled with so much compassion," said one of the women, who goes by "Mamma Tee."

She and her friend, Jacqulyn Davis, tracked Backe down on Saturday and treated him to an afternoon makeover. They took him to a hair salon to get his hair washed and cut. He also got a straight razor shave.

Afterward, the women took him to Olive Garden for a big dinner, and when the manager found out Backe's story, they said he let him eat for free.

News 6 caught up with Backe Monday night and asked him what he thought about the women's gift.

"They're greater than me, that's for sure," he said. "I would never have guessed it."

Now, the women are trying to put Backe up in a hotel to help him get back on his feet. They said they want to help him find a job as well. They said it's another example of how Orlando is coming together in the wake of tragedy.

"To see somebody who has gone without since 2000 and see that much love in a human being after the devastation we've just been through -- I'll never be the same," said Tee.​

About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.