Aunt Asks for Help Celebrating Disabled Nephew's Birthday, Entire Town Throws Him a Parade

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It all started with an online request for something simple: Birthday cards. The caring aunt of a soon-to-be 15-year-old wanted him to know how special and loved he is, so she put out a call.

“I NEED SOME HELP!” she started her post, which went out on Nov. 1. “This is my 14 year old nephew Owen Knight. He has a beautiful personality and an amazing sense of humor.”

“He is turning 15 on November 7th and has asked his family and friends to mail him Birthday cards. Soooo I was thinking we could surprise him and fill his mail box with Birthday cards!”

A fairly straightforward request so far — but then VanWinkle explained why this year the cards were extra important.

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“Unfortunately he has a long list of medical issues including having a defibrillator, Dilated cardiomyopathy and Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy (this is a terminal disease and his doctors have not given any good news lately) so this could be his last Birthday. I will be so grateful for anyone that can put a smile on his face.”

Over 1,600 people shared the post, and thousands ended up sending him cards. Owen has gotten so many that he’s admitted it will probably take him a month or two to open all of them.

Somewhere along the chain of shares and reactions, the post made it in front of the eyes of a police officer who worked in the area. Officer Gitsis was touched, and wanted to do more than send a card.

“Owen is a special, special kid that lives in our town,” he told CNY Central. “We serve the community every day; this is just a different way for us to give back to the community.”

So the town arranged a parade, enlisting the help of local law enforcement and other caring community members. All of them lined up and escorted Owen to his school, where 1,400 people waited to cheer him on.

“Everything! Fire trucks, dump trucks, swat vehicles, cop cars — the whole spiel,” Owen said of the turnout.

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Owen wasn’t expecting the deluge of cards or the festivities that greeted him, but everyone’s work was appreciated. “This is crazy,” he said. “I’m surprised.”

“There are so many amazing people, and I know this birthday is going to be happy and that’s it, that’s all that matters,” said Owen’s mother Jessica VanWinkle.

If you would like to be part of the surprise, even though his birthday has passed, you can still send him a card to show your support.

Owen Knight

1615 Ridge Rd

Webster, NY 14580

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking