Sometimes the smallest gesture can have a great impact. A high school student saw a little girl in need so he ran to help her. The act of kindness is now reverberating around their community.

Addie Rodriguez’s father, Abel, is an Air Force medevac tech. That means he is often deployed or training away from home. Addie misses him, but knows how important the work he does is. She is usually well-composed, but something happened at a game she was cheering at that sent her into tears.

While the cheerleaders were cheering, their moms came down from the stands to join them. The mothers did a short routine with the girls, and then the fathers were called down. All of the girls but Addie had their father’s there. The dads hoisted the little girls up on their shoulders. That’s when Addie started crying.

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Alexis Perry-Rodriguez

Luckily, high school senior Matthew Garcia came down from the stands. He explained to Addie that he would lift her up if she wanted. The little girl was afraid at first, but quickly realized that Matthew was trying to help her. After Matthew lifted her in the air, Addie’s tears disappeared and she started beaming. A heartwarming photo captured the beautiful moment.

Addie’s mother, Alexis Perry-Rodriguez, was awestruck by the gesture. “I just broke into tears when I realized what he was doing. I couldn’t even talk,” she told TODAY.

Military families make so many sacrifices, it’s a shame when situations like these make them feel isolated. Thankfully, people like Matthew can show those families how much they are appreciated and how much others would like to help them.

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Alexis Perry-Rodriguez

“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,” he said. “It was instinct, I guess. I just couldn’t see her like that.”

Addie’s mom was so touched that she posted a photo of the moment on Instagram. She accompanied the photo with this tear-inducing caption:

“9-year-old Addie is no stranger to dealing with her dad being away because he has been in the military for so long. But today I had to watch my daughters little heart break as all of the cheer team had their dad perform with them.”

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Alexis Perry-Rodriguez

“My heart is so full knowing that this young man was willing to make sure my daughter who is a complete stranger to him was not left out. Addie even said, ‘I just felt like somebody saved my life. I thought that’s so nice, especially since my dad’s serving for us.’ Thank you so much! Her father and I appreciate your act of love and kindness!”

What an awesome thank you! Matthew was humble about his role in this sweet story. He said, “Seeing her smile after the way she was crying, that probably made my day even more than hers, to be honest with you.”

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We’re so happy to read stories like this. They remind us that despite all of the negativity and fear-mongering that happens in our world, there are still genuine moments of empathy and kindness. Thanks to Matthew for showing us how to seize an opportunity to make others feel better.