A California food store employee’s kindness helped change a boy with Down syndrome for the better.
On a Sunday morning six years ago, TJ Lawlor, a Redwood City Whole Foods employee, and Riley Dehne, a 13-year-old boy with special needs, met by chance, starting an inspiring friendship.
The first thing customers notice about Lawlor is his friendly face. Lawlor was stocking frozen foods when he observed a young boy coming along the aisle.
“Eventually he got to me and I said, ‘Hey, how are you today?’ And I introduced myself,” Lawlor recalled of the two friends’ first meeting, SBLY Spotlight reported.
Following a brief greeting, Lawlor asked Dehne if he wanted to assist with the freezer. Dehne nodded enthusiastically and enjoyed every second of the event.
Dehne and his mother, Ande, were so moved by Lawlor’s kindness that they started to visit him once a week at the store.
The mother was so impressed by the incredible bond that she wrote a piece for the local paper about it.
Ande stated that her son’s behavior had improved significantly. Lawlor’s companionship reinforced Dehne’s confidence, and he was able to break out of his shell.
“It honestly fills my heart. Sometimes, when there’s someone with a disability it can be harder to get to know them. TJ took the time to get to know Riley. He took the time to meet him where he’s at, to learn his strengths and build on them,” said the mother.
When Lawlor heard Ande’s story, he was taken aback. “That just blew me away, that really did. I never thought that little ol’ me would have such an impact on someone else’s life like that,” he said.
Lawlor shared that the friendship also has a significant impact on his life.
“Every time this guy comes in, nothing but love, nothing but smiles. I get down sometimes myself. This guy cheers me up. He cheers me up and I cheer him up. That’s what I look for in a friend.” he added.