Christian Bowers of St. Charles, Missouri, has Down syndrome, which didn’t stop him from making friends in high school. But, according to Today, after he graduated and left the school’s social atmosphere, he had a hard time making friends. The situation was made worse because his siblings had people over all the time.
“On the weekends, Christian watched his older sisters have sleepovers and attend parties while he sat on his own,” his mom, Donna Herter, told Today. Six months after leaving school, Bowers kept asking his mother, “When are my friends coming over?” and she had no words for him.
Herter had no idea what to do. You can’t force adults to be friends, but she couldn’t bear to watch him suffer. So she decided to pay someone to be his friend. That way, she could rely on them to come and spend time with her son.
“I’m looking for a young man, between the ages of 20-28 who would like to make some extra money,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Two days a month for two hours, I’ll pay you to be my son’s friend. All you have to do is sit with him and play video games in his room. Nothing else. He’s 24 and has Down syndrome and doesn’t have any friends his age. You will not be alone with him, myself or his grandpa will be home.”
She added that her son wouldn’t know that people are getting paid to hang out with him and was adamant that she wouldn’t take free help because she wanted to be sure they’d show up regularly.
Herter couldn’t believe the response. Since being published on February 2, the post has received 26,000 comments and nearly 60,000 shares, and the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. Herter had to create a social calendar for her son to keep up with all of the playdates.
“I still have people messaging, and I’m adding more dates and I just can’t stop smiling and it’s not even for me, it’s for him,” she told KMOV. “He has not been this happy in years, this is the happiest I’ve seen him in years.”
A group of police officers have stopped by the house to eat pizza and cookies and play video games with Bowers. Billy Mayhall, the founder of STL Youth Sports Outreach, teamed up with a group of donors to buy Bowers a new 65-inch flatscreen television for his video games. They gave him some St. Louis Blues tickets, too.
“That was a really heartbreaking post, it really was,” Mayhall told KMOV. “People now are starting to see a lot of these kids with special needs need somebody in life, just like we do, no different.”
According to Herter, her son is now booked through July.
This story is a beautiful example of a parent reaching out for help and the community rallying around them in support. Herter took a considerable risk by publicly asking to pay someone to be her son’s friend. But she didn’t care; in the end, it was all about her son’s happiness.