Until recently, Kevin Harrison of Nottingham, England, wasn’t sure his son Daniel even understood the concept of friendship.
Daniel is autistic, and like many kids on the spectrum, he has always preferred to play alone. So when Daniel’s school asked what his two biggest wishes were, his family was shocked to learn that he longed for friends.
“Daniel, for the first time, was asked at his special needs school to write two things that he’d like to achieve,” Kevin told CBS News. “His first was learning to drive and the second thing — which surprised us — was ‘make some friends,’ because we didn’t understand that he understood the theory of friendship.”
The dad admits the note “shocked us to the core.” It also broke his heart to think that his son craved friendship, as making friends can be difficult even without autism.
As Daniel’s 15th birthday approached, Kevin decided to reach out to the inclusive community he’s fostered on Twitter to get his son a little internet love. He never anticipated just how much joy would come their way!
“Daniel’s my son,” Kevin wrote. “Profoundly Autistic. Hasn’t one friend. It’s his birthday today. In his ECHP he wrote that his two wishes were to learn to drive and make friends. Please wish him a happy birthday. Please show him you care. Please share.”
The message went viral almost instantly. Kevin couldn’t believe his eyes as thousands of people shared, liked, and commented warm birthday messages filled with love and compassion.
Some sent Daniel pictures of their own children who are on the spectrum, while others sent cheerful pictures of their pets. Even celebrities responded to the request, starting with none other than Luke Skywalker, also known as Mark Hamill.
Kevin admits he was a little starstruck by that message! “This means a lot,” he replied. “For me as an 8-year-old. And for my son who idolizes you. And for every person with Autism.”
Actors Russell Crowe, Sharon Stone, and Ariel Winter also sent Daniel a message, as did singer Liz Phair and many others.
Strangers from all over the world turned up to show their support for this wonderful teen. Some people even sent him real gifts in the mail, and others did their part to fulfill his wish of driving a car.
Automotive photographer and performance car reviewer Kurt Bradley even shared a point-of-view video intended to put Daniel behind the wheel virtually!
By the next day, Kevin’s tweet was the top trending topic in the U.S. He couldn’t believe how many people stepped up to make Daniel feel special!
When asked why he thinks the post gathered such support, his response was simple yet touching.
“People want to be loved, don’t they?” he said. “People want to be liked. It’s a universal feeling.”
“I think it’s a good news story, because the whole world right now is polarized,” he continued. “Everywhere, there’s no middle ground. Yet, we found with Daniel’s tweet and the story that there’s a lot of beautiful, lovely people in the world.”
Kevin said the real takeaway from this experience is that we’re all connected, no matter how disconnected we may feel. He used to feel like he was alone, but countless other families are in the same boat.
“You’re not alone,” he said. “Just simply that, people do love you.”
What a beautiful response! We wish this sort of thing happened more often because it’s a wonderful reminder that we’re all more similar than we are different.
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