What started as one mom’s desperate plea for mere birthday cards to help celebrate her severely autistic son’s 12thbirthday turned into something much more special thanks to help of one local police officer.
“In mid-January, I started feeling like here it comes again,” Catherine Pearson, of Andover, Mass., told GoodMorningAmerica.com of her son Logan’s birthday.
February 24 is normally a painfully quiet day for the family as they struggle to find the right way to celebrate yet another year of their young, completely non-verbal son’s life.
“It’s just one of those reminders that things are just not the same for him,” said Pearson, 34. “Usually on his birthday we just have this eerie silence in the house and we take him out for ice cream, but without any friends at all, it’s always just really quiet.”
This year, however, a tearfully distressed Pearson wanted to be proactive about her approach to make Logan’s birthday as special as possible. She took to Facebook to simply ask others to make a card to send their lonely son.
“Out of desperation, I asked my Facebook friends to just write on a piece of paper, ‘Happy Birthday, Logan,’ and I’ll make a little book for him so he can feel like he’s being acknowledged,” said Pearson, who never expected the response Logan would soon get, receiving more than 3,000 cards from all over the world in the mail.
“He loves it. He’s just been ear to ear smiling,” she said. “One lady even sent in a Toys ‘R’ Us gift card for $100 and we’re not even in her family. I know we work hard for our money and I just can’t imagine someone doing that for a complete stranger.”
Pearson’s Facebook post continued to spread, getting shared more and more until it reached the eyes of Pamela Ryan, girlfriend of Cambridge Police Officer Steven Bikofsky.
“My girlfriend is sensitive to children with special needs,” Bikofsky explained. “She showed me this post and she said, ‘Oh my God, this poor woman. She’s asking for people to send her son birthday cards.’”
When the police officer realized Logan and his family were in Andover, only 30 miles away from he and Ryan in Cambridge, his immediate though was, “Let’s drive up there and deliver a cake, balloons and a card.
“Something little would make this family’s day,” he added.
And it certainly did, although the surprise Bikofsky proceeded to plan was by no means little.
A birthday party fit for a king, the officer arranged for the family to have a full-blown police escort equipped with lights and sirens the entire 14-mile trip to Fuddruckers, where Logan would then get to enjoy burgers surrounded by plenty of his new friends in uniform.
“As the plan unfolded, Andover Police asked what they could do to help,” Bikofsky recalled. “We had 10 to 15 different agencies with 75 to 100 police officers there. Everybody was on their own time, put on their uniforms and showed up.”
The family had no idea what was in store for them this past Saturday, but Logan sure was grateful.
“We went to the door and Logan comes over and takes a look at me and wraps his arms around me. It was great,” said Bikofsky. “We escorted them downstairs where there were six cruisers waiting. We had three cruisers ahead of them and three cruisers behind them the whole way.
“As we pulled up to Fuddruckers, we pulled into a sea of blue. The family was so pleased. We went down the line introducing him to everyone and had cake and it was just a great moment.”
Logan received lots of special gifts for his big day, including police and fire department hats and shirts and even badges.
“It’s definitely been a birthday to remember,” an overwhelmed Pearson said.
More than the surprise celebrations her son received, Pearson said most importantly, this birthday was special because it means they’re not alone.
“We don’t feel alone anymore,” she said. “His birthday was always a time we didn’t know what to do. We can’t force people to be his friends. But now we’re supported, and now Logan sees that support.
“Special needs kids count, and now people see it’s not so scary to have autism. He’s just like a real boy, and kids have been approaching him since seeing him on the news and it’s just so cool to see.”
As for Bikofsky, he said the bond between he and Logan definitely doesn’t end here.
“In a year, there’ll be a card for him in the mail,” he said. “He won’t be forgotten. It’s already on my calendar. We’re taking him on as one of us.”