GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A Grand Rapids police officer granted a birthday wish for a 9-year-old that he will never forget.
The chance meeting between the police officer and boy from Grand Rapids’ Southeast Side last week started with Thomas Daniel missing his bus to school and finished the next day with a special party put on by police officers.
Daniel now calls Grand Rapids police officer Austin Lynema a hero and credits him for a memorable birthday.
The special bond began being formed on Feb. 26, when Daniel was walking to his bus stop. It was his ninth birthday and he was day dreaming of his birthday party later that day and all of his friends he invited that he hoped would celebrate with him.
As Daniel was approaching his bus stop, he realized the bus was driving away and attempted to flag down his only source of transportation to school, but he was too late.
“I was sad I missed the bus, I just wanted to go to school,” Daniel said. “I started crying when it drove away.”
Lynema witnessed what happened and offered to help the young man.
“I saw him running down the sidewalk trying to chase his bus, he was in tears. I tried to stop his school bus for him,” Lynema said. “He informed me he never missed a day of school. I wanted to make sure I could help him as much as I could.”
The police officer walked Daniel back to his apartment. On the way, the officer learned that it was Daniel’s birthday. Daniel invited all the GRPD police officers to his birthday party because he was afraid no one would be coming because he said he was being bullied at school, Lynema said.
After Lynema received permission to drop off Daniel at school, he made sure to provide a grand entrance, just for Daniel. As he pulled into the school parking lot, Lynema flashed his lights and sirens.
“When he said he wasn’t sure if anyone would be at his party I wanted to be sure that somebody was going to be there,” Lynema said.
Daniel’s family and Grand Rapids police officers attended his party that evening.
“When Austin came over, no one was at my birthday party because everybody had to go somewhere … to their friends’ houses to play,” Daniel said of the people he invited. “I just love Austin, because he’s the coolest guy I’ve ever met in my life”
The day after Daniel’s birthday, Lynema and other members of the Grand Rapids Police Department decided to surprise Daniel with a birthday party he would remember for birthdays to come.
Police brought personalized Krispy Kreme donuts that spelled out “Happy Birthday,” a Grand Rapids goodie bag with toys, shirts, hats and more, along with a singing quartet.
“People at school are happy for me because Austin … he never lets kids down, he’s a hero,” said Daniel. “I’ll never forget this until the day I die.”