Redwood City, CA

Six years of friendship between a boy with special needs and a grocery employee: “Nothing but love and smiles”

Amy Christie

A unique friendship started between a teenager with Down Syndrome and a Whole Foods employee who works for a store in California.

In his 12 years career, few things have touched TJ Lawlor as much as seeing genuine excitement and happiness when the boy keeps helping him every week.

What are the details?

The incredible bond was formed on a Sunday morning in Redwood City at the Whole Foods store. On that day, TJ was restocking frozen items when a boy with Down Syndrome walked down the aisle, according to Sunnyskyz.

“He got to me, and I said, ‘How are you today?’ Then I introduced myself,” TJ recalls.

After meeting the boy, TJ asked him if he’d like to help out, and the boy immediately agreed to pitch in for filling the freezers. “He said yes and loved every second,” TJ shared with the outlet.

Riley Dehne was that boy, and he still comes to the store every week with his mother. They got along right from the start that Andi Dehne, the boy’s mother, insisted on turning this visit into a tradition and coming to the store each week.

So, Riley comes every week and, while his mom shops for what they need, he always finds TJ and helps him any way he can. He takes out the trash, restocks empty shelves, or chooses groceries for his family.

“It honestly fills my heart. When someone has a disability, it can be harder to get to know them. TJ took the time to get to know Riley and meet him where he’s at. He learned his strengths and built on them,” Andi said for NBC Bay Area.

The mother also wrote a story about the friendship to celebrate how confident Riley feels every time he visits the store and interacts with TJ. She is amazed how he is constantly being drawn out of his own world and fits in the wider world waiting for him.

“That just blew me away. I never thought I could have such an impact on someone else’s life like that,” TJ said about the bond he has with Riley.

And this friendship hasn’t impacted only the teenager’s life. TJ feels the love, and he certainly got his fill of positive energy.

“Every time he comes in, nothing but love and smiles. I get down sometimes myself. He cheers me up, and I do too. That’s what I look for in a friend,” TJ concluded about the beautiful friendship that brings them closer each day.

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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

Dallas, TX

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