Lifestyle & Human Interest

Mom Writes Tribute After Sweet Picture of Officer Hugging Little Girl with Autism Warms Hearts


A mom in Wheatland, California, has decided to share the story behind a photo of her daughter that surfaced online after officers from the Wheatland Fire Authority visited her little girl’s preschool.

Brittany Templeton was not sure what to expect when she learned that officers would be visiting her daughter’s school to teach fire safety awareness to the students. She knew that the event, which would be fun and engaging for most kids, could easily upset her daughter.

Kayli, 3, was recently diagnosed with autism. And while Templeton says that most days her little girl functions in relatively the same ways as her classmates, some days she deals with extra challenges.

“I wasn’t sure how she would do,” the mom said in a Facebook post shared by the Wheatland Fire Authority. She knew there would be extra stimuli that might overwhelm Kayli, but Templeton tried to stay positive. “I dropped her off as normal with hopes of it being fine.”

The fire safety training came and went without incident, as far as Templeton could see. Not long afterward, however, the Wheatland Fire Authority posted several photos of the day online. One picture immediately caught Templeton’s eye.

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The heartwarming photo of Kayli hugging one of the officers would have seemed like just another sweet image to anyone else, but the 3-year-old’s mom knew that it meant so much more.

“I didn’t even know she was struggling that day until I saw this picture. There were new people in her regular environment asking kids to try this and do this which would be awesome to most kids – but for her it can be overwhelming,” she said.

“This sweet man let her cuddle, and relax right there on his lap for who knows how long because he could just tell she was having a hard time.”

According to Yahoo Lifestyle, the officer in question was named Anthony Banas, and he had a very special reason to pull Kayli aside that day. Banas himself has a brother who has autism, and he could immediately tell that the little girl was having a tough time.

“We were showing the children our gear to make it less scary than it might be in a real situation, and I noticed Kayli in the corner with her teacher. She looked afraid,” he told Yahoo.

“She didn’t have that usual shyness of children her age.”

Knowing just what to do, the officer let Kayli hang out with him for a little while, hugging her close and helping her calm down. Templeton said that his act of kindness left her moved and thankful, as she was worried about how Kayli would handle the activity at the school.

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For Templeton, helping her daughter through day-to-day challenges can be a daunting task. But all it took was a simple photo to remind her that there are people out there who can offer hope and support to moms like her and children like Kayli. The appreciative mom said that people like Banas warm her heart.

“As a parent, this kind of diagnosis can leave you wondering how each day is going to be. If someone is going to show her compassion, or judgement. And yesterday, it was compassion.”

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Laura Stewart was an associate story editor and news and lifestyle contributor for The Western Journal.
Laura Stewart was an associate story editor and news and lifestyle contributor for The Western Journal.
Phoenix, AZ