Kaitlin Coghlin won't be able to graduate high school this year. She doesn't have friends to invite to a birthday party. But her mom says one thing will make her feel loved when she turns 18 this July — birthday cards.
Coghlin has Williams Syndrome, a genetic disorder that limits her social interaction and will keep her in high school until age 21. Her mom, Nicole Callander, wants to make up for the milestones she'll be missing this year. So she's asking people to send birthday cards to their Brantford home from now until July.
'She thought she wasn't getting all this stuff like going to the parties and having grad because she had no friends.' - Nicole Callander, mother
"It's the worst feeling as a parent to have your kid crying because they're so lonely and have no friends," said Callander.
"I started thinking that I can't just go out and find her a friend. I thought maybe I could do something big for her 18th birthday."
Coghlin is one of four children. Her sister's a year ahead, Callander said. Coghlin has watched her sister graduate, go to parties, and celebrate her 18th birthday with her friends.
This had Coghlin feeling lonely, Callander said. She thought since she's only a year younger than her sister, her turn soon would follow.
Callander explained that Coghlin wouldn't be graduating for another few years, which upset the teen.
'I just want people to know how thankful I am that they're letting Kaitlin know that she matters.' - Nicole Callander
"She thought she wasn't getting all this stuff like going to the parties and having grad because she had no friends," said Callander.
Callander had to explain that it has nothing to do with her lack of friends.
Coghlin's five-year-old brother is now starting to go on play dates, which again made her wonder why she herself doesn't have friends.
So Callander thought of cards.
"I thought if maybe I can get my Facebook friends and family to mail her a card every day between now and her birthday, that when all these milestones at school happen, she would still feel loved because she'll be getting these cards every day," said Callander.
'I honestly wasn't expecting it to take off as well as it has.' - Nicole Callander
What Callander thought would just be 100 cards has turned into the Facebook page "Kindness for Kaitlin." Now it has more than 1,200 members, and people from around the world sharing Callendar's video plea for cards.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Callander. "I honestly wasn't expecting it to take off as well as it has. I mean, we're only like not even a week in and this is how much attention it's gotten already."
A card from Trudeau
Callander is asking people not to send gifts because they already feel very fortunate.
Coghlin has already received 15 cards. Callander says that she's already gotten in the routine of checking the mailbox as soon as she gets home from school.
On Monday, Coghlin will open a card from the prime minister. A friend of Callander's got Justin Trudeau to sign it after his town hall meeting in Hamilton on Wednesday.
"She doesn't really know who the prime minister is, unfortunately, because she's only cognitively [at] a kindergarten level," said Callander. "So over the weekend, I'm going to teach her who the prime minister is so it's more exciting."
'What I have realized from this project is there's a lot of kids who don't have friends that are lonely.' - Nicole Callander , mother
Callander says that Coghlin will be able to share the prime minister's card with her class for "Talking Tuesdays."
Heard from other parents who can relate
Callander said she's gotten messages from other parents saying that they feel her pain because they know what it's like to have children without friends.
"What I have realized from this project is there's a lot of kids who don't have friends, that are lonely," said Callander.
Callander said she and her daughter will write cards back to those kids.
She'll also organize an "un-birthday birthday party" picnic on July 14 for any kids who also lack friends for birthday celebrations. Callander is looking for a park to host the event. She's also been offered a Hamilton church hall to hold Coghling's July birthday party.
"I just want people to know how thankful I am that they're letting Kaitlin know that she matters," said Callander.
Cards can be sent to the address below. If you're looking for card ideas, Coghlin likes the colour purple, musicals, Bollywood, Disney princesses, and Ariana Grande.
267 Brantwood Park Rd.
Brantford, Ontario, Canada