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A beautiful moment came out of a scary situation last week for a 21-year-old mentally disabled woman who got lost after wandering away from the facility where she lives.
While grabbing a bite to eat with a colleague on Friday, Officer Michael Giovenco, 27, from the Bloomingdale Police Department in Bloomingdale, Illinois, got a call about a missing woman, so he finished his meal as fast as he could and set off to find her.
As soon as Giovenco and his colleague located the woman who fit the description, they jumped out of the car and went up to her, but she was visibly scared and upset and walked away.
That's when he decided to approach her to see if he'd be able to calm her down himself.
"I tried to get to know her and build a bit of rapport with her," Giovenco told TODAY.com. "My goal was to get her to trust me."
He asked what she liked to do for fun, and she mentioned she likes to go for "walks on the trails." Giovenco didn't know what that meant, but when he asked her if she wanted to go for a walk, her face lit up.
"She was so emotional when we found her, we didn't think anything would calm her down," he said. "All she wanted to do was walk and I've never seen someone more excited to do such a simple activity."
The further they got, the more the woman calmed down.
When they arrived at a busy street, Giovenco held her hand to cross. When they reached the other side, he let go, but she didn't want to stop walking and asked if they could continue holding hands.
As they walked, hand in hand, she told him about her stuffed animal teddy bear and he told her about how he used to play baseball, all while another officer trailed behind to catch the touching moment on camera. The police department posted the moment to its Facebook page, where it has drawn over 800,000 views.
"There's so much negative stuff about police out there, we wanted to show a lighter side to the police force," Giovenco said.
On their way back to the facility where the woman lives — she had wandered about 15 minutes away — the pair passed a monument honoring a police officer and a firefighter, and she yelled with pride at Giovenco, "That's you!"
When they finally got to the facility, two relieved workers came out to greet them.
Though his act of kindness has gotten widespread attention, Giovenco says he wasn't doing anything extraordinary.
"If that was one of my family members who I loved, I would've treated them the same way," he said. "It's just part of the job."