A heartwarming letter posted online by a mother thanking a young man for teaching her daughter to skateboard has gone viral.
Jeanean Thomas' daughter Peyton had been fascinated by skateboarding since the summer. Thomas said the six-year-old would watch people speed down a hill on their boards in a park near their home in Waterloo Region.
When Thomas offered her old skateboard to her daughter and said she could go for a ride, Peyton seemed astonished.
"When we were at home she said 'I really wish I could skateboard,'" Thomas told CBC News. "I said 'my skateboard's in the basement, go get it.' And she said, 'You have a skateboard?'"
"[Peyton] said 'I thought only boys skateboarded,'" her mother recalled.
On Oct. 10 they went to their local skate park in Cambridge, Ont., where Peyton spent the first few minutes falling off the skateboard. It didn't help that the park was full of swearing and smoking teenage boys, Thomas said.
But a young man who had been watching her fall came to the rescue.
"Your feet are wrong. Can I help you?" Thomas remembered him saying.
Thomas said Peyton gave her a nervous look, but the man looked like he would help so she nodded. He held her daughter's hand when she fell and helped her balance and steer.
When they left an hour later, Peyton had gone from slipping off the board to riding up and down ramps. The young stranger's help prompted Thomas to write a thank-you letter later that day.
"I want you to know that I am proud that you are part of my community, and I want to thank you for being kind to my daughter, even though your friends made fun of you for it," Thomas wrote. "She left the skate park with a sense of pride and with the confidence that she can do anything, because of you."
Dear teenage boy at the skate park... pic.twitter.com/78ry5esoTa— @JeaneanThomas
Thomas posted the letter to Twitter and it has since been retweeted nearly 6,000 times.
She and her daughter had left the park not knowing who the young man was, but in her letter Thomas guessed he was a teenager.
The kind stranger turned out to be Ryan Carney, who is actually 20 and more than a little baffled by the letter and the attention it has received.
"If that was me and I didn't know how to skateboard at all, I wouldn't have much [fun] just falling on my butt. I would want someone to help me who knew how to skateboard. That's all I did," he said in a phone interview from the indoor park and skateboard shop, Funhouse, he works at in Kitchener, Ont.
Carney teaches kids between the ages of four to 15 to skateboard at that park, though he said most of them are boys. He estimated that only about one in 20 skateboarders he comes across are girls.
Thomas said she wrote the letter in the hope that Carney's parents would be proud of him, but Carney said he's happy to see someone new skateboarding.
"I just seen a little girl struggling to enjoy her time there and encourage her to skate more, instead of being discouraged and leaving — either because she was scared of older kids or scared to fall," he said. "I wanted to see her leaving wanting to skateboard again."
Which Peyton might do. Thomas said her daughter's been asking to go back every day since then, and they just might go this weekend.