Tim Harris: a Fearless, Hugging Special Olympics Athlete

In June, we released what we believe are five elements to a fearless approach in solving some of the world’s most pressing issues, in our new website and report, “To Be Fearless.” We are asking people to take the pledge to Be Fearless in one (or more!) of the following ways: 1) Make big bets and make history; 2) Experiment early and often; 3) Make failure matter; 4) Reach beyond your bubble; and 5) Let urgency conquer fear.

To celebrate the Olympics, we’ll be featuring a new blog series in partnership with the Special Olympics for the next few weeks, highlighting the fearless journeys of athletes, volunteers, and leadership from the organization. In part two, we are featuring Tim Harris—an athlete, Global Messenger (one of 12 international athlete spokespeople for the organization), and restaurant owner who has reached beyond his bubble and made fearless big bets.

Tim’s Place, located in located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, provides “the friendliest service in the world” and serves “breakfast, lunch and hugs.” Beyond the hugs and friendly service, this family restaurant is unique because of the fearless leader at the helm.

His name is Tim Harris. The 26-year-old is a Special Olympics New Mexico athlete and Global Messenger whose life has been defined by exceeding expectations.

In a speech to a group from Special Olympics that visited his restaurant, Tim said, “From the minute I was born, I always wanted to be a part of the world around me.” He joined Special Olympics in his youth and would go on to participate in several sports, including poly hockey, basketball, track and field, and others. And as he says, “I’ve earned more medals than Michael Phelps.” In 2008, Tim graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with certificates in Food Service and Office Skills. He worked at a variety of local restaurants including CiCi’s Pizza, Golden Corral, IHOP, and Peppers Bar and Grill.

Tim had always dreamed of owning his own restaurant. In October 2010, adhering to Walt Disney’s motto “If you can dream it, you can do it,” he opened Tim’s Place. Tim fearlessly lives out his personal mantra, which can be found on the wall of his office, “I am more like you than different.”

Not only did Tim reach beyond his bubble and surpass what most thought possible: he made a big bet and made history as he is the only person with Down Syndrome to own a restaurant. He epitomizes how to conquer fear and defy the odds and is truly an inspiration to all who encounter him.

Hugs are Tim’s measure of success. He doesn’t charge extra for the hugs and says “most customers order at least one, sometimes two” — he has a counter on the wall to track his hugs which is currently tracking more than 20,000 hugs. Not only is Tim teaching so many people how to Be Fearless, but he is actively bringing joy into the world every day. Because who couldn’t use a free hug?

See more of Tim’s story, in this CBS News video:

Learn more about the Special Olympics, and read part one in our series.