A mother desperate to help her lonely son who has Down syndrome offered to pay people to be his friend. Christian Bowers, 24, of St. Charles, Missouri, was embraced by his high school peers, but he never developed true friendships in adulthood.
"On the weekends, Christian watched his older sisters have sleepovers and attend parties while he sat on his own," Bowers' mom, Donna Herter, tells TODAY.com.
Christian Bowers, a 24-year-old man with Down syndrome, had trouble making friends in adulthood, so his mom came up with a plan to help. Courtesy of Donna Herter
A few weeks ago, Donna and her husband Allen were sitting in the living room when she got an idea.
"I wondered, what if I pay a local man who is looking for extra money to hang out with Christian twice a month?" she recalls. "I thought it would help both of them out."
After a late-night nursing shift, Donna posted on Facebook, offering $80 for a two-hour shift.
Donna went to sleep and when she awoke, her post had been shared six thousand times by people around the world, including people in Ireland, Australia, Japan and Nigeria.
"I panicked and almost took it down," she says.
Then, she noticed that in the comments section, other parents of special-needs children were writing to each other and chatting with volunteers about setting up their own friendships. "I realized, 'Wow, this doesn't just happen to Christian,'" she says.
Four new friends have since visited Bowers. All replied to her "help wanted" post, she said, but in the end declined to accept any money.
"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."
Bowers and his friends hang out in his bedroom, watching movies or playing video games. Next week, he has plans to go swimming. Donna says the men have been "perfect matches" for her son.
The volume of invitations became unmanageable, so Donna purchased a day planner to organize Bowers' full schedule.
On Feb. 14, eight police officers from St. Charles and nearby towns visited Donna's home to hang out with Bowers and eat pizza and cookies, donated from a restaurant and bakery. Next month, he'll go bowling with military police trainees and visit three local fire departments.
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