EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 21, 2014

A birthday like no other

Mother sparks a global outpouring in celebration of autistic son

ANDOVER — 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 turns 12 on Monday.

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. This week, 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.”

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