A Group of Tweens Befriended a 5-Year-Old with Autism & the Story Is Truly Heartwarming

Video of Carter playing at the skate park with the middle schoolers, which was taken by his mom.

When Kristen Braconi took her 5-year-old son, Carter Bruynell, to a local skate park in South Brunswick, New Jersey, last month, her greatest hope was that he'd have a good time and maybe even interact a bit with some other kids. Carter has autism, which means socializing with other kids his age doesn't always come naturally. But she had no idea the day would surpass her wildest expectations -- and leave Carter with an unlikely new group of friends.

  • You see, it just so happened that a group of middle schoolers were also heading to the skate park that day. 

    And although this kind of scenario might cause some parents in Braconi's situation to worry (after all, middle schoolers can sometimes be brutal), she was stunned by what she saw play out next.

    The tweens didn't just walk up and introduce themselves to the 5-year-old -- they took him under their wing, showing off tricks, cheering him on as he rode his own skateboard, and ... well, generally just treating him like one of the crew.

    This moment of kindness, however small it may seem, was huge for Braconi.

    "I never expected older kids to show up and start including him and interacting with him and making him feel so special!" she tells CafeMom. "When they sang to him I was crying and so was Carter's behavioral therapist [who was also there]. It was so unexpected and beautiful."

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  • It was even more touching considering that day -- March 26 -- wasn't just any day. It was Carter's birthday.

    Carter poses with his mom and the Easter Bunny.
    Kristen Braconi

    And it's a birthday both he and his mom won't soon forget.

    "I don't know, they really just shocked me," Braconi told CBS affiliate WBNS News. "It was unlike any experience I think I've ever had."

    Most of that was thanks to 13-year-old Gavin Mabes, who pretty much led the pack.

    "Gavin is just going around with him and making him feel special," Braconi told the news program. "And the rest of his friends kind of followed suit and then started singing Happy Birthday to him. That really blew me away, 'cause you just want to see the kindness in the world. And I wanted Carter to have a good birthday."

  • Braconi wasn't the only one blown away by the simple act of kindness. She later shared the story on a community Facebook page, where it went viral.

    Carter poses for a phot
    Kristen Braconi

    "I never once thought that by putting this beautiful interaction on the community Facebook page it would attract so much attention!" she tells CafeMom. "My whole intent was to show the parents of these children that they have done a great job teaching kindness and respect, and as parents that is all we can hope for! We all need to hear that we are doing a good job, but when we can show proof of this it is so powerful." 

    Even more powerful is the fact that the chance encounter at the skate park that day has led to a blossoming friendship between Carter and the group of middle schoolers -- but especially Gavin.

  • Braconi shares that since their first meeting, Carter has met up again with the group of friends several times and even had a pizza party.

    Carter sits at a table with his new friends eating pizza.
    Kristen Braconi

    "We also started Carter in T-ball and Gavin plays baseball," Braconi explains. "Saturday was Opening Day and Carter got to throw the first pitch out to Gavin, and it was nothing but amazing!"

    Even Gavin’s mom, Donette, has been welcoming, Braconi says, adding that she recently invited Carter to an Easter egg hunt at the complex she manages.

    "We have started a beautiful friendship that has been such a blessing!" says Braconi. "Carter always asks to see Gavin and wants to talk to him and hug him."

  • The special bond created that day at the skate park has been lifting hearts across Facebook since the story started going viral.

    Gavin and Carter pose in their baseball uniforms.
    Kristn Braconi
    "What an awesome story!" wrote one user. "It’s so nice to read about good things and good kids."

    "Love goes a long way," wrote another. "Way to go, kids."

    Others praised the parenting behind it all.

    "The parents of these children are amazing!" wrote one woman. "Thank you for raising great people."

    Carter's mom says she's been forever changed by the experience.

    "This simple act of kindness between strangers has shown me there is hope in this world," she tells CafeMom, adding that the lesson in all of this is crystal clear. "Being kind is easy and we need to build each other up instead of tearing everyone down," she says. "The positivity can drown out the negativity and there are acts of kindness happening everywhere everyday we just need to highlight it more!"

    We certainly do. 

    Thanks to Gavin and his middle school crew for giving us all a story worth sharing.