When my son met you three years ago, I was grateful he had found
a friend. We had just moved and he was starting second grade in a
new school. The change would have been hard for most kids, but my
son has autism, which made your friendship that much more
Since then, you have been such a happy part of my son's life. As
a fifth-grader, he doesn't get invited to birthday parties anymore.
Other kids have moved on without him. But you are still here. You
are the only one who has ever invited him over to play. Ever. And
he is a fun kid, so everyone else is missing out, if you ask
So, when your birthday arrived this year and I learned that,
instead of presents, you were only asking for donations to a food
pantry, I knew that you are more than my son's friend, you are my
In a world riddled by bullies and materialism, your story is
rare. If the world knew about wonderful you, I knew it would grant
your birthday wish. I knew that, if I told my friends, they would
want to help. And so I used Facebook to share your story. In only
two days, they donated more than $1,500 and 20 bags of groceries to
Most of all, I want you to know why so many strangers from all
over the country wanted to help a kid they had never met. You are a
promise, you are hope, you are everything we aspire to be, and you
are only 11.
You ARE a hero.
You befriend children who are lovable and fun and smart and
special, even when nobody else will. And this is a big deal, Max.
So many kids are lonely, sad and scared and may never, ever
experience friendship. Can you imagine what that would feel like?
To never have even one friend? To go to school and sit by yourself
at lunch, never be chosen for partner work, and play all alone at
recess? To never be invited to a playdate or a birthday party? I
think you understand how sad that would be, Max. Your heart is so
big that you can't help but help. That makes you a hero.
You put your dreams and desires on hold for the good of others.
When most kids ask for "stuff" for their birthday like an iPhone,
you ask for food for others. You know that there are kids who
cannot hope for a Nintendo DS, but who would be grateful enough
instead to find a box of Pop-Tarts in the pantry. And that happened
for 136 families the week of your birthday-all because of you. That
makes you a hero.
They say that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and I know
now that is true. I am grateful for you and so is this world. And
you can come over to play anytime. My son will be waiting for you
in the family room ready to do battle on the Xbox, and I'll be
waiting at the door with a hanger for your cape.
Jennifer Wood is a special needs mom and a special needs attorney in Plainfield.
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