GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids Police Department officer helped a 9-year-old boy get to school, then helped him have a happy birthday.
On Facebook Tuesday, GRPD shared the touching story that that forged a friendship between 9-year-old Thomas Daniel and Officer Austin Lynema.
It started the morning of Feb. 22 outside Thomas’ family’s southeast Grand Rapids apartment complex.
“I was coming down Oak Park Drive and saw Thomas in a dead sprint after his school bus,” Lynema recalled, speaking with 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday afternoon.
Lynema, who has been with GRPD for about six months, asked the boy if he needed help. Thomas told the officer he missed the bus and his mom didn’t have a car.
“I started crying because I missed the bus,” Thomas told 24 Hour News 8. “I wanted to get to school really fast so I can do my work at school.”
After getting permission, Lynema drove the boy to school. During the car ride, Thomas shared that it was his birthday and invited Lynema to his party after school. The boy said he was being bullied and was afraid no one would come to his celebration.
Later that day, only Lynema and Thomas’ siblings came to the party, which was missing a cake.
“No one showed up,” Thomas said. “It made me sad.”
Lynema decided the boy needed a makeup party. The next day when Thomas got off the bus, Lynema and other officers surprised him with a second party complete with a Krispy Kreme doughnut cake, a singing quartet and a GRPD hat, T-shirt and badge.
“It said Grand Rapids police,” Thomas said of his present. “I loved it!”
“He came out on the balcony. He was jumping up and down. He couldn’t believe that we actually showed up,” Lynema said.
“I was so happy to see Austin,” Thomas added.
In the Facebook post, GRPD said the boy told the officers, “This is the best birthday ever!”
“No kid should get bullied, and no kid should worry if anyone will come to the party. Next year Thomas Daniel, make sure you drop us that invite a little sooner. We wouldn’t want to miss it,” GRPD said in the Facebook post.
Family members said the surprise lifted Thomas’ spirits and he’s been in a good mood ever since.
Thomas, meanwhile, doesn’t have any hard feelings against the classmates who didn’t come to his party. He said he was excited to see them again after spring break wraps up.
“I miss you guys and I still love you guys no matter what,” Thomas said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Lynema returned to see Thomas. The 9-year-old got to sit in the driver’s seat of Lynema’s cruiser and learn how the sirens and loudspeaker work.
He said he wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
—24 Hour News 8’s Marvis Herring contributed to this report.