Chad Kleis with his sons Hunter, left, and Hudson. Photo courtesy Chad Kleis.
A father planning a birthday surprise for his autistic son posted a simple request to his 400 Facebook friends, and now the plea has gone viral, worldwide.
Chad Kleis, whose oldest son will turn 9 next week, wanted to do something special for Hunter’s birthday. So on February 17, Kleis posted a request on Facebook:
“Need your help!” the Texas dad wrote. “I’m going to try and write this without crying. TOO LATE!!! As many of you know, our oldest son Hunter is autistic, and as a result he doesn’t have many friends, and he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties or sleepovers. His birthday is coming up on March 15th and he will be turning 9 years old. I would like [to] make it a little extra special… I am asking for you to send him a birthday card. (He loves Mickey Mouse, Disney, Pixar Movies, etc), you can send them whenever, and we will hold until his birthday!”
Hunter Kleis, right, with his brother Hudson. Photo courtesy Chad Kleis.
Kleis, who also has a 6-year-old son, says he didn’t have huge expectations for the request. “I was hoping that 30 or 40 people would have a big enough heart to share it and we’d get 20 cards in the mail,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. Instead, Kleis says they’ve received nearly 600 cards, plus more than 50 packages, from as far as Ireland, Australia, Norway, and Korea. “We received a card from a remote island I’ve never heard of off the coast of England,” he said. “It probably cost that person $25 just to send it.”
Hunter, who is non-verbal, hasn’t had a lot of great birthday celebrations, Kleis says. “We’ve gotten to the point where we stopped doing birthday parties for him because we’ve come to accept that kids aren’t going to come. He doesn’t even get the invite to other kids’ birthdays,” Kleis says. “As his dad, I look at it as my job to protect my son but also to give him the opportunity to have a great birthday like every kid wants to have.”
So Kleis tried to think of something that would make Hunter’s next birthday extra special. “I thought, how cool would it be to get a card from someone you didn’t even know, wishing you a happy birthday?” he says.
Hunter and Chad Kleis. Photo courtesy Chad Kleis.
Kleis says he’s shocked and humbled by the huge response. “We are blown away,” he says. “It’s been one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me and my family in my whole life.”
There’s still a week left before Hunter’s birthday, so for now, Kleis is hiding all the cards in the shower. But Kleis says he can’t wait to share the outpouring of support with his son. “There’s going to be a lot of excitement and joy and I’m going to say, ‘This is all for you. Settle down and strap in because we’re going to be opening these for two months!’”
Kleis also runs the organization Hunter’s Autism Specials, which secures local discounts for families of kids on the autism spectrum. “Hunter is the inspiration for everything I do,” Kleis says. “He’s my best friend,”
To send Hunter a card, please mail it to:
P.O. Box 6506
McKinney, TX 75071