Days before his ninth birthday in June 2019, Christian Larsen, a kid with autism, sent out invitations to his friends in school.
His mom, Lindsay Barrus Larsen, waited for RSVPs but only got one yes from a girl in Christian’s class. They waited for a couple more days, but there were still no yeses and noes from those invited.
Lindsay knew that many people just don’t RSVP and hoped that was all that was going on, but a school year picnic revealed that there might be something more to the lack of responses to the invitations.
As Christian was saying goodbye to his classmates at the end of the picnic, he asked the other kids to RSVP to his birthday party. One girl said, “Okay,” while the others didn’t respond to him at all. One kid said “No,” and another replied, “Maybe.” Sadly, the parents didn’t acknowledge Christian either.
Heartbroken for her son, Lindsay posted about the experience on Facebook.
“At first I was just hoping that with the end of the year chaos, that the invitations were overlooked,” she wrote. “But, after seeing the personal interactions, I’m thinking maybe there is more. The hardest thing, is I do understand.”
“It can be uncomfortable to try to be a friend with someone who has had outbursts and cried in class,” she continued. “It’s hard when maybe you tried at the start of the year, and he kept wandering off in the middle of the game.”
Lindsay didn’t make any requests about her son’s birthday in the post and said she was planning activities for Christian and the one friend who said she was coming.
However, her friend, Blythe Ben-David, saw the post and thought that Christian deserved better. She lives in South Texas—far from the Larsens in Meridian, Idaho—so she couldn’t be there for the party, but there’s one way she could help make Christian’s birthday special.
Blythe reached out to family friend Dan Holtry, the football coach at Nampa High School in Idaho, and asked if he could help.
“He has always been a great guy, a genuine guy with a big heart,” Blythe described Dan in an email to CNN. “I knew if anyone could help it would be Dan.”
The coach then texted his team to let them know about Christian’s science-themed party and the lack of response to his birthday invitations.
“The kids, before I could finish the text — it felt like — they were like, ‘Coach, We’re in,”‘ Dan told KTVB. “I was amazed at how much they wanted to participate in this and take care of Christian.”
Dan got in touch with Lindsay, and the latter agreed to have the team come over and visit.
On June 4, Christian’s birthday, a few classmates, some neighborhood children, and some family friends showed up. In a video shared by Lindsay on Facebook, the birthday boy was playing with the other kids in the backyard when the surprise guests arrived.
Dan and the football team—all donning their uniforms—emerged on the patio while chanting Christian’s name.
Visibly shocked, the boy fell to the ground, pretending to pass out when he saw them.
The young athletes came bearing gifts for the celebrant.
“It was just an opportunity to take care of a guy that was going through adversity, and we’re blessed here at Nampa High School,” Dan said. “We have a lot of great kids. We know about adversity and we have our fair share, and we know how to fight through it.”
The coach and his players stayed until the very end of the occasion. The young men played with the kids, sang Christian a happy birthday, and watched him open some presents. The children even asked for the athletes’ autographs.
“I have lots of best days in my life, and this might be one of them!” Christian told KTVB.
Kudos to this kindhearted coach and his football team for making this sweet boy’s ninth birthday one of the most memorable!
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