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Breakfast, lunch and hugs at Tim's Place

By Tim Harris, Special to CNN
July 10, 2013 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
  • Tim Harris was born with Down syndrome
  • He operates Tim's Place restaurant in New Mexico
  • "Tim Hugs" are on the menu; he's given out more than 40,000

Editor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle -- injury, illness or other hardship -- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week we introduce you to 27-year-old Tim Harris, who says he's living the life of his dreams.

(CNN) -- I was born in January of 1986. A few hours after I was born, our doctor told my parents that I had Down syndrome.

A lot of people told my parents that they were very, very sorry. I guess they didn't know then just how totally awesome I would turn out to be.

Growing up with three brothers was a lot of fun. They treated me like a brother -- not like someone special or different. They never let me use my disability to get out of doing the dishes when it was my turn. I did try sometimes, though.

I started in Special Olympics when I was 13 years old. My Special Olympic sports are basketball, poly hockey, volleyball, golf and track and field. I have dozens of gold medals -- way more than another Olympian, Michael Phelps Many of them are on display in my restaurant.

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I think that being athletes made me and my friends popular in high school. I was so popular that I decided to run for Homecoming King in my senior year. I was very happy when I won My brothers told me that even though I was the King at the school, I was not the King of our house!

After high school I had a dream to go to college. In the fall of 2004 I moved to Roswell, New Mexico, to attend Eastern New Mexico University. And yes, it's true, there are aliens in Roswell. I graduated in the summer of 2008 with certificates in food service, office skills and restaurant hosting.

After college, I knew I wanted to live on my own. I love my parents a lot, but I want to have my own life. In July of 2010 I moved into my own apartment. I shop for my own groceries, do my own laundry and pay all of my own bills.

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I love living in my own place. And lucky me, it's right next door to my restaurant. I bet you wish you could walk to work in two minutes.

For over 10 years, I had a dream to own my own business. Well I'm here to tell you that dreams do come true. I am the owner of Tim's Place -- the world's friendliest restaurant, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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My favorite part of the work day is giving out the free Tim Hugs. They are on my menu and most people order at least one. So far, I've given out nearly 40,000 hugs. I even have a counter on the wall to keep track of the total. I guess you can say I'm a lean, mean, hugging machine.

I have a dream to inspire other people to reach for the stars. If I can do it, you can too.

See you at Tim's Place.

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