SOUTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A group of New Jersey teens are being hailed as heroes by the mother of a little boy with autism after they approached her son at a skate park on his birthday and gave him a very special gift.
Kristen Braconi took her son, Carter, to ride his scooter around at their neighborhood skate park on his fifth birthday last week. Before too long, a group of older kids showed up with their skateboards and noticed her little boy scooting around.
"They were absolutely amazing with him and included him and were so beyond kind it brought me to tears," Braconi wrote in a now-viral Facebook post.
The teens offered to teach Carter how to ride a mini skateboard and encouraged him when he fell. They even sang to Carter when they realized it was his birthday.
What they didn't know, Braconi said, is that Carter has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"They wanted to do that for him and their kindness and inclusion without knowing anything was going on with him, it was amazing," she told CNN.
Mother and son left the park to pick up some ice cream sandwiches to share with Carter's new friends, but Braconi wanted to do more. She captured the sweet interaction on video and posted it to the South Brunswick Community Facebook page, hoping she could somehow reach the teens to express her gratitude.
"I can’t even begin to thank these kids for being so kind and showing him how wonderful people can be to complete strangers," she wrote."Thank you to whoever these children are and thank you to their parents because you are doing a wonderful job!!!"
Support and love quickly came streaming in from friends, neighbors and strangers alike — all expressing praise for the kind young people who made Carter feel so special.
"So wonderful! What great kids! Happy Birthday to Carter and thank you for sharing this beautiful experience," wrote one user.
"Happy birthday to your beautiful boy!! Thank you for sharing this. This warms heart and makes me happy to raise my babies in this community," wrote another.
Braconi's post even caught the attention of the South Brunswick Police Department, which posted a photo on its Twitter page in an effort to track down the teen "superheroes."
"These kids showed the care and compassion of Superheroes," the tweet reads. "We want to throw them a little pizza party to recognize their Superheroe status."
LOOKING TO FIND SOME SUPERHEROES - On Tuesday some older kids turned into superheroes right behind police headquarters.— So Brunswick PD (@SoBrunswickPD) March 28, 2019
Here is the story - A mom took her son to the South Brunswick Skate Park for his 5th birthday. He has high functioning autism and ADHD. pic.twitter.com/DLITBsQz9m
South Brunswick Lt. Gene Rickle told News 12 New Jersey he was particularly touched by the actions of these young people.
"It's just so heartwarming to see these kids taking care of other members of the community," he said. "That's what it's all about.”
All the social media attention proved fruitful — Braconi has since learned the real identities of the kids who touched the lives of her family in such a significant way. Carter was able to meet up with his new friends again at the skate park where it all began, according to ABC7 News.
One of the teens, 13-year-old Gavin Mabes, told News 12 that he was just trying to pay it forward.
"Some of the guys here I've seen here before," he said. "They've just help me out and were nice to me. So I decided to do that with him."
Each of the teens received a special "kindness coin" from the police department and will celebrate with a pizza party at their middle school in the coming weeks. The party will include an appearance by a very special guest: Carter himself.
As for Braconi, she says she'll never forget her son's fifth birthday and the kids who made it so special.
"They did so much more than they knew," Braconi told CNN.