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This mom posted about wanting to find friends for her 24-year-old son with Down syndrome. The overwhelming support shocked her.

Christian Bowers, now 24, had many friends in high school, but after graduating five years ago, it's been hard to find good friends. Christian has Down syndrome, and his mom, Donna Herter, said his lack of friends was making him feel depressed. 

"[He was] just constantly asking where his friends are, why doesn't anybody want to come over and spend some time with him," Herter, who lives near Rochester, Minnesota, told CBS News. "We would go to Walmart or the store and he would invite half the store to come home with us and play video games with us. And of course, nobody would. And he just doesn't understand why."

Herter didn't know where to turn. So, she posted on Facebook. "I just basically said that I was looking for a young man, between the ages of 20 and 28, local," she said. "I told them that I'd pay them $80 for two hours to basically just hang out and play video games with him. All he really wants is just a guy friend to do guy stuff with."

Christian Bowers has Down syndrome, and his mom, Donna Herter, said the lack of friends was making him feel depressed. She didn't know where to turn. So, she posted on Facebook. Donna Herter

Herter is a nurse, working the overnight shift. She sent the post at 4 a.m. before ending her workday. And when she woke up, it had about 5,000 comments.

"I was freaking out. My hands were shaking, I was sweating. I was just looking for some local guys, I didn't want to invite like the entire world into our house," she said. She was overwhelmed and thought about deleting the post – but a friend told her to look at the replies first. 

She saw parents offering suggestions, others volunteering to help — and some parents of children with special needs asking for advice themselves.

Donna Herter interviewed local guys in Minnesota and found seven that now visit Christian on a rotating schedule.  Donna Herter

Friendships are important for people born with Down syndrome, but leaving school and becoming an adult may make maintaining those relationships difficult. Some adults with Down syndrome may face barriers, like not being able to drive to see their friends, according to the National Down Syndrome Society, or NDSS. 

Having social relationships is important for everyone's mental health – including those with Down syndrome. According to a 2018 study in Australia, young adults with Down syndrome with at least three social relationships often showed a significantly better quality of life, according to an assessment by researchers. 

NDSS says it's "vitally important" for adults with Down syndrome to plan for how they will socialize once they leave school, and clubs, volunteering or further education are good options. 

There are many organizations that help people with Down syndrome find opportunities to be social and to work. 

Herter said Christian attends events for people with special needs, but he "craves a friendship with somebody who is neurotypical. He doesn't want to only hang out with somebody with special needs."

"And I've never asked him, but I assume because it kind of makes him feel normal, just for an hour or two. 'Hey, somebody who doesn't have Down syndrome wants to hang out with me,'" she said.

After interviewing a few local guys in Wentzville, Minnesota, Donna narrowed it down to seven who now visit Christian visit once a week on a rotating schedule. 

James Hasting was one of the men she chose. He saw the post because a friend tagged him in it. "When I first read the post, I was heartbroken that she felt she needed to pay people to be friends with Christian," Hasting told CBS News.

Hasting said he works with people with disabilities and it's something he has a passion for. He said he's visited Christian three times so far and they usually play video games or watch a movie.

"Christian has taught me to look at the world for more than what we see on the surface," Hasting said. "Because though on the surface we may look different, deep down we all have similarities and getting along should be easy." 

He said he hopes this story teaches others it's OK to be different. "Just because someone is different than what you are used to, it doesn't mean that they aren't the same at heart."

Herter's post also lead to more opportunities for Christian – people around the country send him gifts, he was invited to hang out with local firefighters, was named honorary mayor of nearby Wentzville for the day and went bowling with local marines.

"He every night goes to bed with a smile on his face. He tells everybody about his new friends. He gets so excited talking about life now and what he's doing," Herter said. "But I still think the one thing he likes the most is that one-on-one. Just that guy coming over."

Herter hopes to inspire others to form friendships — because you never know how much it means to someone. "Everybody needs a friend," she said. "I thought about it one day. I just sat there and I was like, 'What if I have zero friends? What if I had literally not one person to call, to talk to, to hang out, to have lunch with.' And man, it just really hit me thinking about that, how lonely that would be."

"Knowing there's so many people out there that are wanting that relationship, or wanting a friend, I really hope people reach out in their community and find out where those people are, how to get ahold of them, how to hang out with them."

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