Heroes Among Us

Tim Harris Serves Up Food – and Hugs!

06/07/2012 at 11:00 AM EDT

Albuquerque Man With Down Syndrome Runs Diner
Tim Harris
Mark Peterman
Customers rave about the breakfast burritos at Tim's Place, but the menu item that keeps them coming back isn't edible. It's a big-hearted bear hug, delivered by owner Tim Harris, 26.

"People would order a hug," he tells PEOPLE. "I'll go to the table, tell them, "Thank you for stopping by, and have a wonderful day."

That exceptional customer service is a daily reminder of what a determined young man with devoted parents can achieve. When Jeannie and Keith Harris learned Tim had Down syndrome, "it was like the baby we expected had died," Jeannie says, "and was replaced with a burden that would destroy us."

Instead, they vowed to help their second of four sons get the most out of life. Charming and upbeat, Tim attended a mainstream school, was voted homecoming king and competes in the Special Olympics. His parents, entrepreneurs who subsidized the restaurant but hope it will turn a profit by this summer, opened the diner in October, 2010 after Tim studied food services. Today, with a 20-person staff that includes a manager and chef, Harris routinely speaks to groups of people with disabilities. "I can," he says, "make a difference."

Know a hero? Send suggestions to HEROESAMONGUS@PEOPLEMAG.COM. For more inspiring stories, read the latest issue of PEOPLE magazine.
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