Benjamin Olson became best friends with elderly woman during the pandemic and eagerly looks forward to spending time with her.
The pandemic has proved to be a challenging time for kids, as they couldn't really meet up with their friends, go to school, or even on playdates. Families had to entertain and keep their kids engaged during the lockdown and it was a challenging time. For 2-year-old Benjamin Olson, his life was limited to his family and a neighbor. Benjamin became really close with the neighbor, who was a 99-year-old woman named Mary O'Neill. An unlikely friendship blossomed between the pair during the lockdown and recently celebrated O'Neill's 100th birthday. “For more than a year, he didn’t see other kids. He didn’t interact with anyone except our family and Mary,” said Benjamin’s mom, Sarah Olson, reported TODAY. “They ended up forming an incredibly strong bond.”
Friends and family decided to celebrate O'Neill's 100th birthday, and Benjamin is more excited than anyone else. "It is his buddy and he was very excited to go to her party," said Olson. "A lot of her family has been hearing about Benjamin so they were excited to meet him. (Their friendship) just added a really special layer to her party." The story of the unlikely friendship went viral with many people writing to them and sending cards to Mary O'Neill. The centenarian was gifted a bag of treats which she eagerly waits to share with the little boy every day. "Mary's niece gave her a bag of treats for Benjamin to share during playtime," said Olson. "Now pretty much every day, we see Mary and she asks, 'Is it snack time? Can I bring him a snack?'"
After the first story aired, Sarah Olson wanted to do something for her kind and loving neighbor. "I set a goal of getting 100 birthday cards for Mary's 100th birthday and set up P.O. Box." It turned into a campaign in the local community and soon online as well. "It turned into 300 cards from 21 states, plus a card from Germany," said Olson. For the two-year-old, checking the post office box for cards became a game in itself. He loved nothing more than delivering the cards to his friend, Mimi, as he called Mary O'Neill. "Most of his friendship with Mary, he didn't really say a lot of words," recalled Olson. "For him to come up with Mimi was really cute. Now, she's just Mimi and he asks for Mimi all day long."
Olson was amused when the pair started interacting and she found it cute but she was surprised to learn how much the relationship meant to them. "I just thought it was two cute people hanging out together. To know that it's had such a big impact on her is special," said Olson. Elderly people are more susceptible to the Coronavirus and that made the past year difficult for Mary as well, as she had to isolate herself. O'Neill, who lost her husband 37 years ago, would often wave at Benjamin from behind a window at first without really interacting with him. As the lockdown went on, she would come out and say hello and speak a few words with him. Soon, they became close and Benjamin would often wait by the fence for Mary. “Benjamin keeps me company,” O’Neill told TODAY. “Sometimes he’ll get up and grab a piece of sand or a rock and give it to me as a gift,” said O’Neill. “He makes me feel good.”