A mother of three, Megan Shufflebarger isn’t new to the “oohing” and “ahhing” heard by her children as they walk down a toy aisle.
When her youngest daughter Kinley scanned the Target shelves ahead of her birthday, she listened to her stocked birthday list — and apparently, she wasn’t the only one.
The 2-year-old stood in front of a row of dolls, she stopped and stared at the last blonde one on the shelf. Before the question “can I?” could leave her mouth, a young man walked over and knelt down next to her.
He asked which one was her favorite. She pointed, “I really lub dis one.” The teen chuckled and walked off with the doll.
Disappointed that her doll of choice was now out of sight, she turned to ask her mom where the “dolly” was. Her mother assured her there would be more. A few minutes later, the young stranger returned to the aisle with the doll.
He took it out of a bag, handed Kinley’s mom a receipt and told the little girl to “have a very happy birthday.”
“I was speechless,” Shufflebarger told CBS News.
She thanked him for his kindness. He nodded, smiled and walked off.
Shufflebarger repeated the story for her hundreds of friends on Facebook, sharing a photo of the young man posing with Kinley, who had a “sweet little shocked smile” on her face.
She hoped someone in the Lafayette, Indiana-area would recognize him so she could give him a proper “thank you.”
After more than 55,000 shares, someone tagged the little girl’s hero in the post: 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 shared the post on its Facebook page.
The mom told Fuller she was grateful to him for showing her — and the world — that “hope is in fact not lost in society as a whole.”
“This one act of kindness has likely generated thousands of smiles, softened many hearts and inspired others,” she said. “That in and of itself makes my heart full and happy.”
Kinley’s happy, too.
The soon-to-be 3-year-old, who is never seen without a doll in her arms, may even replace her recent favorite, an Ikea doll named “baby boy,” with Fuller’s gift.
“Maybe this will inspire and humble others to pay it forward more often,” Shufflebarger hopes.