Young girl’s adorable friendship with Publix worker goes viral and inspires mom to start charity

An unlikely yet adorable friendship between a Publix grocer and a young girl has gone viral, inspiring millions to embrace life’s beautiful moments and thank their positive influences.

Rachel Smith has been to the same Publix store, Fort Myers Florida, since before her daughter Fiona was born.

Every Saturday, she goes there with her family and notes that “there was always such a culture of kindness.”

Gilnet the grocer and Fiona interacting at a Publix store

When Fiona started joining her during those weekend trips, the girl met one of her favorite people there—Gilnet the grocer—who Fiona affectionately calls “High Five.”

“From the moment I first brought her to the store, Gilnet was always excited to see her. I noticed her beginning to recognize him, and then eventually going out of her way to look for him,” Rachel told Good Morning America.

“One of their first interactions was him trying to teach her a high five,” she added. “For a while, she couldn’t pick it up. It was then that she finally understood the concept. Then she started referring to him as ‘High Five.’ We’d show up at the store, and she’d sputter out an excited, ‘hi fi’ and tear off looking for him.”

Gilnet the grocer and Fiona interacting at a Publix store

Their special bond grew over the years and they had many happy encounters. Both look forward each week to their weekly meetups and high-fives.

Rachel said that Gilnet’s presence in her family’s life is “nothing short of a gift.”

“He’s reliably been someone who greeted her with an emphatic smile and made her feel loved and welcomed, even in the most unlikely of places: a produce section of a supermarket,” she told Southern Living.

Fiona riding the bike that Gilnet gave her for her third birthday

On Fiona’s third birthday on March 8, 2019, Gilnet pulled off a major surprise for his little friend. He bought her a gift and delivered it to the family’s address on her birthday weekend, explaining that he hoped he wasn’t “overstepping.”

“[Fiona]It was her first bicycle. She eagerly opened it up and found it. She loved it so much and wanted to say thanks to him by giving him some pictures of her riding it,” Rachel recalled.

Fiona and her mom visited Gilnet in the store to leave a thank-you note and a big hug.

Rachel told them to take a vacation from their regular visits when COVID struck. Gilnet also transferred stores during this time.

Rachel was able find his new location and they were reunited after two years.

Gilnet hugging Fiona after she gave him a thank-you card

“Do you remember me?” Gilnet asked Fiona. “Yeah, oh my, I miss you!”

Rachel, a social media analyst shared a throwback video of Fiona visiting Gilnet on TikTok to thank him for his bike. It quickly went viral and inspired her followers to ask how they could show their gratitude to the Publix employee.

In response, Rachel set up a GoFundMe for Gilnet, writing on the page: “I’d love to give something tangible back to him for the joy he’s given my daughter her whole life.”

As of this writing, the $5,000 goal had been exceeded by more than $1300.

Gilnet carrying Fiona in his arms
Wink News

Rachel is most grateful to Gilnet, for being such a positive role-model for Fiona.

“To have adults in her life who lead by example: showing joy, spreading kindness, and modeling compassion, has allowed her to continue to develop into a kind and caring child,” she said.

Her daughter’s friendship with Gilnet also inspired Rachel to build a small charity called “Who’s Your High Five?” where individuals can submit stories about the people who’ve “positively impacted” their lives.

“It doesn’t matter your political affiliation. It doesn’t matter your religion, your age, none of that matter. The grand equalizer is that people just love kindness,” Rachel said.

See the video below to learn more about this cute friendship.

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