— -- More than 400 strangers showed up to Mackenzie Moretter’s 10th birthday party this past Saturday at a park in Shakopee, Minnesota, after all the girls originally invited cancelled last minute or never RSVP’d.
Mackenzie’s mother, Jenny Moretter, told ABC News today that her daughter has Sotos syndrome, a form of gigantism that causes kids with it to grow faster, experience speech and learning delays and have social disabilities.
“I originally invited 10 girls three weeks prior, but we got two cancellations and the other girls’ moms didn’t RSVP at all,” said Moretter, 38. “It’s happened to her on previous birthdays where she would end up sitting alone with family. I didn’t want it to happen to my daughter again this year.”
Last Friday, Moretter posted on several local community Facebook pages inviting families with daughters Mackenzie’s age to stop by.
She thought maybe 15 girls would show up, but more than 400 people came throughout the day, including Minnesota Vikings player Charles Johnson and his family, "Elsa" and "Snoopy" from a local amusement park, and local firemen, she said.
“There was a DJ, arts and crafts tables, balloons for kids, a bubble machine where kids could run through, and local businesses donated food and supplies,” Moretter said. “I was amazed at how quickly the community pulled together this huge birthday party in less than 24 hours.”
A stranger even set up a GoFundMe page, originally intending to help pay for the costs of the party, but Moretter said her family is planning to donate most of the money to other families in similar situations, charities and a foundation researching Sotos syndrome.
Keighla Anderson, a local photographer who volunteered to take pictures of the event, said she was especially touched when her own sister, who has special needs, was greeted by Mackenzie.
“My sister, Isabelle, who has her own developmental disabilities, had this pretty big gift bag, and she was walking up to the event when Mackenzie saw her,” Anderson told ABC News today. “Mackenzie gave her a hug and then showed off all the things Isabelle gave her to her mom. The back of the card my sister gave was signed, ‘Your new friend, Isabelle,’ along with her number and a request to schedule a play date. Mackenzie was thrilled, and seeing their meeting was just so cute and touching.”
Mackenzie’s mom added that a few of the original 10 girls invited actually stopped by to apologize and wish Mackenzie a happy birthday.
Mackenzie officially will turn 10 on Tuesday, when she can go open all her presents that fill an entire room, Moretter said.
“We’re planning on donating a lot of the gifts to other children with similar needs like Mackenzie at our local children’s hospital,” she said.
Moretter added she hopes the occasion will inspire other families similar to theirs and encourage tolerance for children who are different.
“I just want people to know they should accept their children for who they are,” Moretter said. “And for kids who see other kids alone, I’d love to encourage them to go say hi and definitely not make fun of them. I hope parents educate their children more and that this can be a learning project for everybody.”