Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, times of celebration and delight for the person who has made one more trip around the sun. In truth, though, they offer as much opportunity for sadness as they do glee.
Sadly, birthdays offer numerous opportunities for woes, like plans going awry and obvious social snubs, to make an appearance.
Lesley Gore had it right in her 1963 hit song when she said, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to … You would cry too if it happened to you.”
But none suffer quite so much during birthdays as those with special needs. Often ridiculed or, worse, utterly ignored, celebrations often become a point of pain for them.
Megan Aguilar, a 31-year-old mother from Elk Grove, California, had long ago given up on having birthday parties for her son Aidan. See, Aidan has autism, and finding lasting friends has proved difficult for him.
But when his 13th birthday approached on Feb. 1 and he asked if his dentist would send him a birthday card, Aguilar had an idea: Wouldn’t it be nice if a bunch of people shared some Hallmark cheer for her son?
So she issued an open request for cards on Facebook, expecting a dozen or two to arrive. Little did she know that a flood of letters would come pouring in, delighting her son.
“I’ve gotten over 100 cards,” Aidan told The Sacramento Bee. “I was surprised. My mom thought I might get 20.”
Chris Ramirez of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, understands how hard it is to have a nice birthday party. Also autistic, 14-year-old Chris did more than just avoid birthday parties.
He’s been bullied at school since fourth grade, which made him give up on social contact altogether. “Kids always have friends and all, and that just makes me sad because I had like no friends, and I’m like, ‘man I wish one day I had a friend,’” he said in an interview with WPBF.
But the Cherab Foundation decided to make his birthday this year something truly special. In addition to footing the bill for bowling and laser tag at the party center SuperPlay, the group has invited the whole community to come and celebrate Chris.
“By putting a spotlight on that child, it’s helping to reduce the bullying and alienation for that child and foster acceptance,” Lisa Geng, the group’s president, said. “In every situation, their lives have been turned around after we’ve had an event for them, so it seems like it’s just a birthday party, but it’s so much more.”
Chris has had it hard, but the only thing worse than not having a party is throwing one — and having not a single soul show up. Melissa Dial saw a heartbreaking photo on a Facebook group that showed an autistic child sitting alone in a parking lot while waiting for anyone to come to his party.
“I’m making it my personal mission … to help this little boy have the best birthday he has ever had,” Dial wrote. “I’m asking for you all to send him cards, letters, gifts, whatever you can afford.”
And, man, did people send them. Scores of cards rolled in from all over the country and kept coming even after the boy’s birthday had come and gone.
Pictures of the boy opening his goodies started making their way back to Dial, and the result was heartwarming. “Guys, I’m bursting with excitement!” she exclaimed.
“Our little friend has started receiving some of his birthday gifts! He looks like he is having a great birthday now!! Praise GOD!!!”
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