Benjamin Olson, a 2-year-old Minnesota boy, has found comfort in the pandemic by becoming best friends with his next-door neighbor. Mary O’Neill is a 99-year-old woman who will celebrate her 100th birthday in December.

When Mary gazed out of her kitchen window and saw Benjamin and his mother playing in their backyard, the pandemic’s isolation was at its peak. Those were the beginnings of an extraordinary friendship.

“For more than a year, he didn’t see other kids. He didn’t interact with anyone except our family and Mary,” Benjamin’s mom, Sarah Olson, told TODAY. “They ended up forming an incredibly strong bond.”

Mary’s husband died 37 years ago. She started by waving hello to the cute little child next door through her window, as any good neighbor would. She then began walking outside to say hello, Spotlight reported.

O’Neill and Benjamin will sit on her steps and blow bubbles together when the weather is beautiful.

“Sometimes he’ll get up and grab a piece of sand or a rock and give it to me as a gift,” O’Neill said. “He makes me feel good.”

O’Neill invented a game in which Benjamin kicks her a ball, and she passes it back to him with her cane early on in their friendship. She refers to it as “cane ball.” O’Neill also gave the young child a large package of toy trucks that once belonged to her late son.

“Mary carried this big laundry basket filled with heavy trucks up from her basement. I have no idea how she did it. But she carried out those trucks, no problem,” Sarah recalled.

Mary and Benjamin will begin their day around 10 a.m. and spend a few hours just hanging around and chatting with each other.

Benjamin is learning colors thanks to the trucks, thanks to O’Neill.

Hearing how much her son meant to Mary made Sarah cry.

“Mary is fiercely independent. She doesn’t really show her cards. So I got really emotional when I heard her say that she missed Benjamin on the days when it was too cold or rainy to go outside.”


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