After a college football player surprised her young daughter with a special birthday gift last week, an Indiana mom has praised the 19-year-old for teaching her and her children a priceless life lesson.
"What a reminder to never lose faith in humanity and to be generous and pay it forward," Megan Shufflebarger wrote on Facebook on Friday of the young man’s good deed.
Shufflebarger said she’d been shopping at Target with her three kids when her youngest daughter, 2-year-old Kinley, whose birthday is just around the corner, became enamoured with a doll on the shelf.
"I don't think [Kinley] really understood we weren't there to buy toys that day, so she was pleading her case of why she wanted that doll so badly," Shufflebarger told ABC News.
At that moment, a young man, who was also shopping at the store, is said to have approached Kinley and knelt by her side.
He asked the toddler which doll was her favorite, to which she replied: "I really lub dis one," pointing to a toy.
Shufflebarger said the young man soon picked up the doll and walked away with it, out of sight.
"I thought it was odd at first but was quickly distracted with more [of Kinley’s] oohing and ahhing," the mom wrote on Facebook. "Kinley asked where the dolly was she picked and I told her it would be okay there are more."
The little girl didn't have much time to fret, however. Shufflebarger says the stranger returned moments later with the doll -- only now, it was in a bag with a receipt.
The young man handed the toy over to Kinley with a smile. "Happy birthday,” he is quoted as telling the child. "Enjoy your dolly."
Shufflebarger told ABC News that she was made utterly "speechless" by the young man’s gesture.
"I was speechless initially, and had to ask him after he left the aisle if he would come back for a photo," she said. "I didn't realize until we got to the car that I didn't even know his name."
The mom said she desperately wanted to track down the young man to fully express her gratitude, so when she got home from the store, she took to Facebook in the hope that someone might recognize him from the photograph.
Her post soon went viral, and before long, someone had identified the kind stranger. The young man turned out to be 19-year-old Tario Fuller II, a freshman football player for Purdue University.
"We couldn't be more proud of the type of young men and women in our athletics department," Purdue Athletics said on its Facebook page, sharing Shufflebarger’s post.
The NCAA also honored the young man in an article on its website. "It’s always refreshing to see random acts of kindness," the article reads.
According to CBS News, Shufflebarger told Fuller that "she was grateful to him for showing her -- and the world -- that 'hope is in fact not lost in society as a whole.'"
The mom also said the young man had taught her family an important lesson.
"Tario is a good role model for kids these days. I hope our children remember this for years to come and remember what it means to truly 'pay it forward,'" she told ABC News.
As for Fuller, he wrote on Facebook last week that it was an "honor" to receive such positive attention.
The young man, originally from Georgia, is a running back for Purdue.
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