The boy was already running late after making some last-minute preparations for his big birthday party that evening – so he was devastated when he got to the stop just in time to see the school bus pulling away.
He was dreading telling his mom what had happened. Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, he saw the flashing lights of the police car.
It was February 2019 and Thomas Daniel woke up in a nervous sweat. Usually, kids are excited on the morning of their birthday, but this nine-year-old was full of anxiety.
Tonight was his big party and the Michigan boy was worried that guests might not turn up. Before he left for school, Thomas decided to make up some name tags when it suddenly occurred to him that some guests might not know each other. Suddenly, he realized the time.
It was freezing outside, so a brisk jog to the bus stop wasn’t the worst way to start the day. If only there wasn’t so much fresh ice on the pavement…
As he neared the corner before the stop, Thomas could hear the engine of the stationary bus. He sped up, telling himself he could make it if he ran. Then his foot gave way from underneath him.
By the time he’d picked himself up and made it to the stop, the bus had pulled away. “I was sad I missed the bus, I just wanted to go to school,” Thomas said in an interview the next day.
He wasn’t the most popular kid in school. In fact, Thomas was being bullied. If he didn’t make it to school that day to remind people about his party, he feared there might not be one. But before he knew it, he saw flashing lights approaching. A police car pulled up right beside him.
A tall cop stepped out of the vehicle and stood towering over him. Officer Austin Lynema of the Grand Rapids Police Department bent down to speak to Thomas, but the boy was frozen stiff, both out of fear and due to the sub-zero temperatures.
Thomas knew the officer would have thought he was playing truant and he’d be in trouble. All he could think about was his mom finding out.
Officer Lynema explained his side of the story, “I was finishing a call and saw Thomas running down the sidewalk.”
But when he asked young Thomas why he wasn’t in school, all the nervous boy could do was stare and shake his head. The officer felt he had no choice but to ask him to get in the car so he could take him home to his mother.
When he finally found the confidence to speak up, Thomas informed the officer that he’d never missed a day of school before, that it was his birthday, and that it was very important that he get there that day.
But Lynema had no choice. He couldn’t just take him to school. Thomas gulped as the car pulled up outside his house. His mother was already in the driveway with his little brother.
“What’s going on?” Thomas’ mother said in a panic. Officer Lynema explained that he’d found young Thomas outside in the cold, and wanted her permission to take him to school personally.
Thomas’ mom hugged the birthday boy and thanked the officer for being so kind. When the pair arrived at Thomas’ school, officer Lynema even put the siren on so he’d get the attention of all the party guests. But that was not the last Thomas would see of him.
That evening, Thomas was sure the party would be a huge success after his big entrance at school that day. He’d spoken to everyone he’d invited to make sure they would be coming.
Three hours after the party was due to start, Thomas sat alone. No one had come to his party. Then suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
“We weren’t going to let a nine-year-old not have a party,” said officer Lynema, who had been worried that Thomas’ worst fears may have been realized.
Lynema had called his partner, who helped him come up with some gifts, a personalized cake and a singing quartet! “He’s jumping up and down – he couldn’t believe we actually showed up,” said the 22-year-old cop, who had only been on the job for six months at the time. In fact, it seems like the visit has changed Thomas’ life forever.
“I wanna be a police officer real bad,” said recent Tanzanian immigrant Thomas, who now looks up to the generous officer that found him that day. “I just love Austin, because he’s the coolest guy I’ve ever met in my life.”
And Thomas isn’t the only one who praised officer Lynema for going above and beyond the call of duty.
“What a wonderful thing to do,” said a commenter of the Grand Rapids Police Department’s Facebook post sharing the heartwarming story. “Thomas will never forget how happy you made him! I’m sure this kind deed will make a positive difference in his life.”
The post was shared more than 15,000 times. What a great story of positive police work in the community.