Employee Lets Boy with Down Syndrome Help Him, His Act of Kindness Sparks Their 6-Year Friendship

Ayesha Muhammad
Dec 08, 2021
03:40 P.M.
Share this pen

A man who worked at a whole foods market was busy stocking the frozen section when he ran into a young boy with Down Syndrome. Six years down the road, the two have forged a friendship and enjoy each other's company.

Have you ever experienced the kindness of a complete stranger, especially when you least expected it? It's astonishing to know that our life is made up of much more than just joys and sorrows, and some moments can leave us awe-struck.

In a surprising twist of fate, a store employee ended up finding a fantastic friend during his usual work shift. He didn't know that their friendship would go on to become much more profound with time. 


Riley Dehne pictured with TJ Lawlor in the store. | Photo: YouTube.com/NBC Bay Area


TJ Lawlor worked at Whole Foods Market in Redwood, California, for nearly 12 years. Being a morning person, he always loved showing up early at work. Regarding his routine, he told NBC: 


“I’m a morning guy. I like to get up, walk the dog, get to work, and make some money."

He was at work on a Sunday morning six years ago when he ended up making more than just money. Thanks to his amiable behavior and how he connected with his customers daily, he found a friend. 

Riley Dehne and TJ Lawlor. | Photo: YouTube.com/NBC Bay Area



His friend, Riley Dehne, is 19 years old now and has a strong affinity for everything "frozen." His love for the movie "Frozen" made him stray a little farther, walking down the frozen aisle where Lawlor was working. 

Every week while his mother is busy shopping, Riley helps Lawlor stock the shelves, take out the trash, and pick up groceries for his family. 

Riley is a young man with Down Syndrome who had come to the store with his mother, Ande Dehne. Lawlor was stocking the frozen section when he spotted Riley. But instead of asking him what he was doing there, he did something utterly different.


Riley Dehne and TJ Lawlor. | Photo: YouTube.com/NBC Bay Area


The store employee asked him how he was doing that day and introduced himself. Riley recalled Lawlor giving him a popsicle. Regarding their chance encounter, Lawlor shared: 


"I'm glad the stars were aligned right here."

Once the introductions were out of the way, Lawlor asked the young man if he'd lend him a helping hand in filling the freezers. Riley readily agreed and loved every second of their time working together. 

Riley Dehne with his mom, And Dehne. | Photo: YouTube.com/NBC Bay Area



What started as a lovely co-incidence turned into something much more beautiful. Ande knew how much seeing Lawlor and helping him meant to Riley, so she brought him back to the store every week. She also expressed: 

"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."

Ande was so touched by Lawlor's kind and friendly nature that she wrote a story about the incredible friendship between him and Riley for her local paper. She even revealed that spending time with Lawlor boosted her son's confidence. 



Every week while his mother is busy shopping, Riley helps Lawlor stock the shelves, take out the trash, and pick up groceries for his family. Lawlor shared that knowing Riley has also influenced his life. He also said: 

"I never thought that little ol' me would have such an impact on someone else's life like that. Every time this guy comes in, nothing but love, nothing but smiles (sic)."

Six years down the road, the two men have forged a profound friendship. If the phenomenal story of Riley and Lawlor touched your heart, feel free to share it with your family and friends.