After a mom’s plea on social media for birthday cards for her son , who has autism, went viral, he’s been busy opening the more than 20,000 cards he received from well-wishers from all over the world.
“Things like this don’t happen to the likes of us … we are average people,” Karen Jones told TODAY via email. “The emotional journey for me has been incredible."
A few days before her son’s 15th birthday, Jones stumbled upon Ollie drawing. He really loves opening cards but he didn’t expect to receive any this year. Ollie’s autism means he struggles making friends and he knew no one would send him anything. So he was making two birthday cards for himself.
Jones’ heart broke. But she hoped that maybe some people in her town of Exmouth in England might pitch in and send cards to Ollie. She posted a message on the local Facebook page asking her community to send cards; she just wanted something for Ollie to open.
“I was hoping for maybe 20 … 30 if I was lucky,” she said.
The next day, Ollie received 35 cards. Jones felt surprised but soon she realized her message had been shared across the United Kingdom. She figured that’s why he received so many cards.
The next day Jones heard knocking on her door and she answered it.
She felt stunned. The postman stood outside with 14 boxes, each full of cards.
The following day the postman dropped off 28 boxes.
Saturday he dropped off 32 boxes.
“Every card is equally special as the next,” Jones said. "O has loved it."
So far Ollie has received more than 20,000 cards people living in places such as Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines, Germany, Canada and the United States. He received more than the Queen of England on her 90th birthday; she got 17,420.
“Messages and cards are still coming in,” Jones said. “It’s insane!”
Ollie and Jones have managed to open more than 12,000 of the cards. While Ollie loves the cards he sometimes feels overwhelmed.
“He’s also said ‘No more cards next year, mum,’” Jones said.
Jones feels so grateful that so many people took the time to send Ollie cards and kind wishes. She feels especially touched by the encouraging and grateful notes.
"I've had so many lovely messages from parents of autistic children and autistic children themselves saying thank you," she said.
But she really hopes that others take away an important lesson from this. Autistic children need love and support no matter what day it is.
“I just want people to remember there are ‘Ollies’ on every street who crave acceptance.”