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Publix worker and 6-year-old build heartwarming friendship

The Publix worker, known as Gilnet, gifted the toddler a bicycle for her birthday recently.
Credit: Rachel Smith
6-year-old Fiona and Gilnet, an employee at a south Florida Publix, have built a heartwarming friendship that's gone viral on social media.

FORT MYERS, Fla — An unlikely friendship that started in the aisles of a Publix Super Market is tugging at the heartstrings of many in southwest Florida and thousands on TikTok.

Rachel Smith said her daughter, 6-year-old Fiona, always looks for her worker friend to give a high five to when on their weekly Publix trip in Fort Myers. It happens so often that the meetup has become a longstanding tradition, she told WSVN in Miami.

Every time they walk into Publix, Fiona would beeline to the produce section to find Gilnet, the Publix worker who Fiona calls "High Five." He's since moved to another Publix in Cape Coral but that hasn't changed the friendship Fiona shares with her favorite Publix employee.

The two reunited for the first time since the pandemic began, WSVN reported, and Fiona reassured Gilnet that she remembered him. The meetup was captured on video and uploaded to TikTok where it's been viewed more than 18 million times.

Credit: Rachel Smith
Gilnet gifted Fiona a bicycle for her 6th birthday, her mom said.

"Our favorite Publix worker, Gilnet, has always provided a smile, a hug, and a high five for Fiona since she was a baby," Smith said on a GoFundMe page.

Smith is currently raising money to give back to Gilnet after he gifted Fiona with a bicycle for her birthday recently. So far, GoFundMe has raised over $8,000, exceeding its $5,000 goal.

"I'd love to give something tangible back to him for the unquantifiable joy he's given my daughter her whole life," Smith said.

Since the pair has swept the internet, Smith has created a charity called "Who's Your High Five?" inspired by Fiona's nickname, High Five, for Gilnet. It aims at highlighting the special people who have made their lives better. 

Smith hopes to share user-submitted stories that feature people who have felt a positive influence from someone in their life.

"I think recognizing those who've made us better is a huge part of keeping the kindness of humanity intact," Smith said.

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