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/ Source: TODAY
By Chris Serico

On AMC's "The Walking Dead," Norman Reedus' character Daryl Dixon has to be tough to survive a steady onslaught of zombies, but off the TV set, young Ava Truesdale can vouch for Reedus' softer side.

The latest evidence of this could be seen by the actor's social-media followers on Monday, when Reedus posted a photo of Ava on Instagram. On the young Georgia resident's photo is a handwritten greeting, "To Norman: Love Ava," prompting Reedus' Instagram caption of "Ava" and an emoji heart.

MTV spoke to Ava's mom, Heather Truesdale, who says her daughter has struck up a friendship with Reedus since being diagnosed in 2013 with a condition called alopecia areata, commonly known as spot baldness. Ava not only found an escape in episodes of "The Walking Dead" that her parents pre-screened, but also came to appreciate the loyal friendship of Reedus' character, according to MTV.

Since "The Walking Dead" films in Atlanta and its suburbs, Truesdale brought her daughter to a shoot, where Ava gave Reedus a drawing of his character. "He was so sweet to her," Truesdsale told MTV. "He called her 'sweetie' and 'cutie,' and he really liked her picture."

Reedus' social-media handle, @bigbaldhead, also resonates with Ava.

"It was very difficult for her to have to go to school as a 7-year-old girl, bald," Truesdale told MTV. "She thought it was so cool that his handle was 'bigbaldhead,' because I was like, 'you're his little bald head!' She just thought that was the coolest thing ever."

Reedus and Ava since have hung out at a "Walking Dead" convention and on the set, and maintained contact through social media.

Their bond even has inspired Reedus' fan base to turn their friendship into art.

Ava seems especially grateful for Reedus' gestures.

"He's very loyal, he's smart, he makes me more confident, he makes me feel stronger," Ava told MTV. "And he's funny. And he gives the best hugs."

Follow TODAY.com writer Chris Serico on Twitter.