When cheerleader Addie Rodriguez, 9, was performing with her team during a football game at Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas, it happened to be “Parent’s Day” and the girls were joined by their parents.
After the mothers did a routine with their daughters, the fathers would come out of the stands to hoist them on their shoulders for a special cheer. However, Addie’s dad, Abel Rodriguez, was a senior airman and had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Addie found herself alone. Her eyes welled up with tears as she watched the other cheerleaders with their fathers.
“I just felt like really sad because I missed him a lot,” said Addie.
That’s when Matthew Garcia, 18, who was nearby watching his younger brother Roland, 13, play in his middle school football game, noticed Addie was crying in the stands.
“Are you Ok?”Garcia asked as he hopped down near the fence, approached Addie and kneeled down.
He had been through his parents’ divorce when he was a small child before his mother remarried, Garcia immediately realized what was wrong.
“Do you mind if I pick you up?” he asked. “Yes,” Addie said. And Garcia lifted her up onto his shoulders so she wouldn’t feel left out.
“I understood what it was like to not have a dad there, so when I saw her crying like that, it just struck a chord with me,” Garcia told TODAY. “It was instinct, I guess. I just couldn’t see her like that.”
Addie’s mother, Alexis Perry-Rodriguez, was touched by Garcia’s act.
“I realized what he [Garcia] was doing, and my heart just melted,” she said. “It was just the most beautiful thing.”
The high school senior is just glad he could help make Addie’s day.
“I would consider doing that every time. It [isn’t] anything special. After the game, she came up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much’ and gave me a hug. We took a picture and she had the biggest smile on her face.”
The fourth-grader, Addie, said she was eternally grateful for what Garcia did.
“I just felt like somebody saved my life,” she said.
You might not be a hero, but you can be a hero to someone by offering them your compassion when they’re in need.