- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014

ANDOVER, Mass. (AP) - Cathy Pearson wanted to make sure this birthday was different for her severely autistic son, Logan.

So after years of Logan’s birthday passing without fanfare due to his disability, Pearson put a call out to friends and family to send birthday wishes to her son, who turned 12 on Feb. 24.

In a matter of days, cards and gifts started arriving at an alarming rate.

And not just from friends and family. The world answered the call, sending thousands of cards, as well as gifts and souvenirs, too.

One card contained a crisp $20 bill and a handwritten note, reading, “to be used only for ice cream. Enjoy.” Another came with the words “Happy Birthday Logan” punched in braille and then rewritten in ink. Recently, a stranger sent along a card with a $100 gift card to Toys “R” Us.

The Boston Police Department shipped a police academy shirt. A classroom from Tanzania sent a package of letters. Even Elmo forwarded an autographed picture.

The outpouring has been more than Pearson and her husband, James, could have ever fathomed for their oldest child, who is nonverbal and cognitively at the developmental level of an 18-month or 2-year-old.

James Pearson said due to the nature of Logan’s disability, it’s been hard to mark Logan’s birthday like other children, including his two younger siblings. So over the years, as Logan’s disability became more apparent, his family celebrated his birthday less and less.

“The expectation is you go to birthday parties and social events, and kids interact with each other,” James Pearson said. “But because of his disability, he can’t interact.

“It was just … kind of a little bit of a bummer. And my wife, every year on his birthday, would feel sad about it. I’d feel sad, too, but not the same way a mom does.”

In her initial post to friends and family via Facebook on Jan. 30, Cathy Pearson said she was already “feeling sick about losing another year where autism has my son - has his voice! Every year on his birthday, I close my bedroom door and bury my face into my pillow and cry.”

“I guess everyone realizes that he doesn’t understand anyways,” she wrote. “This year, I want to stop feeling downright upset that my son is aging into a young man under a blanket of autism. I want to CELEBRATE him and ENJOY his day.”

The Facebook post came equipped with permission from Cathy Pearson to share and pass it around. From there, “it ended up, really, getting re-posted beyond what she had expected to the point that it went viral.”

As the post has made its way around the globe, including to autism support networks everywhere, well wishes by the hundreds from as far away as Japan and Tanzania have flooded the family’s Lowell Street home.

“He has received, from one kid in Washington, a Jay Jay the Jet Plane play set. He has gotten a Slinky, Hot Wheels cars,” James Pearson said. “Someone sent us an Australian flag - a full-size Australian flag. We also have an Australia magnet on our fridge now.”

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