Gerald Hamilton finally feels like it's his birthday, even though he turned 9 on March 20.
The boy from Lake Station, Indiana, who has brain complications that require him to undergo surgery every three years, has never had a birthday party with friends before. He's been content with family gatherings in past years, but wanted to celebrate with other kids this year.
"His older sister just had friends over for her 14th birthday party, which is where we think he got the idea from," Amelia Lara, Gerald's grandmother, told TODAY.com.
Out of the 30 invitations he sent out, 12 children RSVP'd yes, which got Gerald excited. By the time of the party date, March 26, he had covered his home with superhero-themed decorations and filled goody bags with treats.
When no one showed up two hours into the party, his mom, Kristina Hamilton, wanted to cut the cake, but Gerald didn't let her. "What if one of my friends ends up coming?" he asked.
"Kristina called and clued me in as to what was going on and it just broke my heart," Lara said. "Even though he originally didn't want family there, he was happy to see them trickle in."
When Hamilton called the parents of the 12 kids who were no-shows to find out what happened, their response was that Gerald was "too different for their kids to play with."
That's when Lara turned to Facebook to see if she could get friends to send him birthday cards, posting her address.
"My grandson, who is in second grade and has had at least five skull expansion surgeries, is slower than the other kids in his class," Lara wrote on Facebook. "However, he is the kindest, most compassionate kid I know."
She posted the message, thinking maybe she'd receive a few letters to share with Gerald, but she woke up the next morning to a package at her front door — and the letters and presents have just kept coming ever since.
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"He likes the gifts, but he LOVES the letters," Lara said. "He'll play with a toy for a few minutes and then pass it on to his siblings so he can go back to reading letters."
Once word got out in his community, Gerald, a lover of K-9 dogs, was invited to Wednesday's city council meeting, where he was greeted with a surprise birthday party, complete with more gifts and a K-9 dog to play with.
"He was really sad the day of his party, but now says he finally feels like it's his birthday because he's getting cards," Lara said. "I'm happy that we can show him that not everyone is bad and that there are some people out there with genuinely good hearts."