An autistic boy celebrated his 11th birthday with over 30,000 cards from all over the world after his mum’s heartbreaking appeal went viral.
Lisa Jackson, 43, of Portsmouth, asked people to send a card to her son Ben after not one of the 25 children invited to his 9th birthday bash attended.The Royal Mail has been deluged with so many cards and presents that it set up dedicated trolleys at its Portsmouth sorting office.
Lisa told how her lad’s eyes were “wide as saucers” when postmen arrived with a large vanload of deliveries just for him on the morning of his birthday on Saturday.
The astonished youngster, who has also enjoyed a string of unforgettable treats from wellwishers, declared his birthday the “best ever”.
As he opened cards from as far afield as Australia, the USA, South Africa, India and Singapore, Ben said: “I will always remember this birthday.
“My other birthday was awful. This one is the best ever. I cannot imagine ever having a better one.
“I could not believe my eyes at all the cards. Thank you everyone.”
Ben’s birthday breakfast consisted of leftover pizza after a firm gave him more free food than he could possibly eat the night before.
Local businesses laid on free trampolining and a bouncy castle and Star Wars fans dressed as stormtroopers and motorbike enthusiasts turned up to his open air party on a common.
Even the police entered into the spirit of the occasion by ‘arresting’ Ben on suspicion of stealing a birthday cake and taking him to Waterlooville police station on Saturday evening.
There, he was fingerprinted and shared a cell with Hampshire Constabulary’s Special Chief Inspector Paul Norris before being presented with a giant signed card and cake.
Big-hearted officers also let him try out police uniform and riot gear and lark around in a patrol car.
On Friday, Ben visited Southsea Fire Station to sit in engines and try out firefighters’ equipment.
The Army’s 47th Regiment Royal Artillery sent Ben a special plaque and a Portsmouth FC football in the community worker presented Ben with a Premier League football.
Other wellwishers have bought Ben a TV, PlayStation and iPad as birthday presents.
His birthday weekend celebrations are continuing on Sunday with an exclusive visit to a local toy store before it opens to the public and another birthday bash organised by a community group.
Lisa said: “This is a birthday Ben will never forget – but for all the right reasons this time.
“His eyes were as wide as saucers and his mouth wide open when the huge Royal Mail van arrived full of cards and presents.
“They delivered about 15,000 cards and said they have as many again to deliver on Monday.
“Ben sat there for a minute without saying a word, which is unheard of for him.
“Ben is reading every card as he opens them. The response has been overwhelming and a big boost to his confidence. He was devastated when no-one turned up to his previous party.
“He has received so many gifts that we will donate some to charity as there are too many just for him. I cannot fit any more in the house.
“I would like to say a big thank you to everyone from the bottom of my heart for their unbelievable kindness and generosity.”
Lisa’s original post was shared over 45,000 times on Facebook and highlighted on a string of other social media and parenting forums.
She told how Ben has a “heart of gold” but struggles to make friends because of his high-functioning autism.
She recalled the agonising wait at his 9th birthday party as he repeatedly asked: ‘They will come in a minute won’t they mum?’
She wrote: “By 2.30pm he was getting more and more anxious and visibly upset, he kept asking me where everybody was. I just didn’t know what to say to him. It was obvious at this point that nobody was coming.”
“It was the most heartbreaking moment ever not only for me but for him too. This day had a lasting effect on him for a very long time, he was devastated, it knocked his self confidence, heightened his anxiety and is something he will always remember.
“This year I want him to have a birthday to remember and hopefully undo the damage of the previous birthday which has had a lasting effect on him.
“Can I ask you from the bottom of my heart if you would kindly consider sending him a birthday card for his “11th” birthday to put a big smile on his face and make this birthday one to remember for the rest of his life!!!”
Lisa said that Ben had cried when he eventually learned of her appeal. She said: “He is not normally at all emotional because of his condition.
“It is heartbreaking not being able to cuddle your own child.”
She hopes that Ben’s experience will raise public awareness of the difficulties autistic children face.
She said: “I expected maybe a few hundred cards at most. But everything has gone completely crazy.
“So many other parents have shared their personal stories of their autistic children that have left me in tears. I have been getting through boxes of tissues.
“Ben has had a tough life.
“I hope this will raise awareness of the stuff that goes on, not just with Ben, but so many other autistic children and educate some people to change their ways.”