Internet rallies around boy with special needs for viral birthday party
In this screengrab, the 'Happy Birthday Colin' Facebook page is pictured. The Michigan boy will celebrate his 11th birthday this weekend by reading some of the thousands of messages sent to him from around the world.
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, March 8, 2014 10:49AM EST
A Michigan boy with special needs will celebrate his 11th birthday on Sunday by reading some of the thousands of messages sent to him from around the world.
The boy, named Colin, will read many of those messages on a Facebook page that was secretly created for him by his mother Jennifer.
Jennifer Cunningham decided to create the page for Colin last month after she asked him if he wanted to have a birthday party. His answer was heart-breaking.
"He said there wasn't a point because he has no friends," she explained on the page.
Colin has a disorder similar to Asperger syndrome which makes it hard for him to make friends, she said. Social skills are not easy for him and he often acts out.
As a result, other kids don't like him and he ends up eating lunch alone every day in his school office, she said.
"So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words that would be better than any birthday party. Please join me in making my very original son feel special on his day," she wrote.
As news of her cause spread, the Facebook page grew in popularity. It has received more than 2.1 million likes, and hundreds of people have posted messages of support. As well, Jennifer has received thousands of letters in the mail.
The messages range in complexity from simple notes and photos to elaborate compilation videos, and they've been sent in from every corner of the globe.
Members of the Ross-Agusta Fire Department in Michigan posed for this photo:
And members of the U.S. Army sent in this video:
As the page went viral, celebrities joined in. After learning that Colin aspired to be a stand-up comedian, a group of famous ones recorded video messages for him.
"I understand you want to be a stand-up (comedian), so you have to learn how to tell a lot of stories. And you have to learn how to be untruthful, which is probably not going to help you until after you get out of high school. But happy birthday young man," D.L. Hughley jokes.
Jay Leno even gives Colin some helpful tips. "I'll be watching for you, so get material together, put a set together… we'll take a look," he says.
And on Friday, Colin and his family flew to New York City where the surprise was finally revealed to him.
Colin had been told that he was appearing on Good Morning America to help test out a series of video games. But instead he was shown the page.
Looking stunned, he was presented with a T-shirt reading "I went viral on my birthday!" and a birthday cake. He was also given tickets to Disney World for him and his family.
Colin later thanked everyone for their support in a video message posted to YouTube.
"I'd like to thank you -- the 2.1 million of you (for) just supporting me in this," he said. "Now I'm here in Florida thanks to you guys, and I'm really enjoying it."