A Mom Pays for a Friend for Her Son With Down Syndrome to Keep Him Company

Family & kids
5 months ago

When a child comes into the world, every parent hopes they can offer them the best life possible and guide them along the way. A parent’s love might drive them to go to any length to ensure their kids’ safety. This is especially true for children who require special care, like Christian Bowers, a boy with Down syndrome, whose mother did something extraordinary to make sure he never feels lonely again.

Christian was very lonely.

Christian has always been a great lover of life, constantly smiling and striving to make others feel better. “Christian is a social bug, and when we’re in public, he’ll invite anyone to join us,” his mother, Donna Herter, says. “One time, we went for pizza, and he invited a table of 15 construction workers to sit with us, which they did.”

He was raised with love and happiness, which shaped him into the charismatic young man he is now at the age of 24. But Christian has Down syndrome, and it’s not always easy for people with this disability to bond and form friendships.

Throughout his time in high school, Christian had the chance to form multiple friendships. But those same friendships eventually ended once school was over. After graduating, his need for people grew even more, but none of Christian’s friends would come to see him, and, as his mother recalls, he would frequently ask: “When are my friends coming over?”

By breaking out of his familial and social bubbles and facing the harsh reality of someone with his condition, Christian Bower started feeling more alone day after day. “On the weekends, Christian watched his older sisters have sleepovers and attend parties while he sat on his own,” Donna says.

Donna couldn’t just stand by and watch, so she found a solution to his loneliness.

People with disabilities, like anyone else, benefit from having meaningful connections and friendships. However, it can be more challenging for them to build social relationships due to societal barriers and stigma. So, it’s understandable that Donna would feel desperate to help her son overcome his loneliness.

As she claims, the heartbreak of just seeing your child suffering “doesn’t lessen with time [...] it gets harder.” Donna had to be strong for 2 people: herself and Christian, who, like other guys his age, has many aspirations.

She recounts, “Christian says, ’Hey mommy, when I turn 25, I want my driver’s license,’ but that will never happen. Or he’ll say, ’When I am married and have kids’ or ’When I move out...’ but he isn’t high-functioning enough to live on his own.”

Donna wanted to encourage her son to pursue his interests and hobbies, as these can be great avenues for building friendships and finding like-minded individuals. But in Christian’s case, things weren’t that straightforward, so she opted to take matters into her own hands.

After a late-night nursing shift, where Donna and her husband sat at the table trying to figure out a solution for their son, she had the idea to post a message on Facebook offering to pay someone to spend time with Christian.

The post read: “I’m looking for a young man, between the ages of 20-28, who would like to make some extra money,” she wrote. “2 days a month for 2 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.”

According to the post, Bowers couldn’t know about this “deal,” and she also specified that “the reason I’m paying is to guarantee you show up. He’s had many people tell him ’Someday, I’ll visit’ and they never do.”

Donna had no expectations when she submitted the post, but the day after, she was shocked to see the flood of interactions and messages she had received. The whole community reacted with a sensitive, compassionate response, even offering their free assistance and companionship.

Donna was also shocked to see how many parents were writing to each other and talking with volunteers about making their own friendships. “I realized, ’Wow, this doesn’t just happen to Christian,’” she says.

Christian is now showered with love from many new friends.

When the number of invitations grew, Donna even purchased a day planner to schedule Bowers’ whole itinerary. She explains, “I’ll say, ’Christian, there’s a new friend who wants to spend time with you,’” says Donna. “He’s so excited that he doesn’t ask questions.”

The fact that Christian was finally no longer alone meant more to Donna than any amount of money. Indeed, she was also accused of “selling” her kid, but she firmly replied, “unless you have a child with special needs, you won’t understand the pain they go through every single day.”

Overall, it’s heartwarming to see that this mother and her son were able to find a community of supportive individuals who are willing to befriend and include them. It’s a reminder that there is kindness and compassion in the world and that we all benefit from connecting with others.

Christian is constantly overwhelmed with gifts and letters, but most of all by the love of strangers who are growing to be his friends. “The love being shown to our son is amazing,” Donna claims. “Christian says having friends over feels like heaven. He goes to bed with a smile on his face, and when he talks to himself, I know he is replaying everything.”

Even though this ongoing flow of people may not last forever, Donna is optimistic about the future and what lies ahead, saying, “My hope is that a few of these young men will want to stick around for years to come.”


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