MERIDIAN, Idaho - A 9-year-old Idaho boy with autism had the “best birthday ever” after local high school football players surprised him by coming to his birthday party.
Christian Larsen had passed out invitations to his class of 25 kids, but only one girl responded yes, his mother Lindsay Barrus Laren said.
"Christian wanted to invite his whole class to his birthday party this year. He passed out the invitations. I only heard back from one girl, one out of 25 kids," she told Boise’s KTVB-TV.
But little did he know that a special birthday surprise on June 4 was coming.
"This is probably the best birthday ever, I have lots of best days in my life, and this might be one of them," Christian said.
“Today was a day with all of the feelings. I can't thank the people enough, who helped it all come together,” the mother said in a June Facebook post.
On May 31, Larsen posted on Facebook about the lack of RSVPs from Christian’s classmates. That got the attention of her friend from Texas.
“Her kind initiative, made a birthday miracle happen,” Larsen said in the June post explaining how the idea came together.
Her friend’s husband played college football with a man who happens to be the coach of a nearby local high school in Idaho.
“She had contacted him, and before we knew it, Coach Dan was reaching out to me, asking if he could come to the party with some of his best players,” Larsen wrote.
Nampa High School football coach Dan Holtry told KTVB-TV that he sent a quick text out to his team.
"The kids, before I could finish the text, it feels like they were like, 'We're in... Coach, we are in!' They were like when do we do it, let's go. I was amazed how much they wanted to participate in this and take care of Christian," Holtry said.
Donovan Estrada was one of the Nampa High School football players who attended Christian’s birthday bash.
"Instantly I wanted to do it, and I know these guys did too! Right away we texted back yeah, let's do it, we're in!" Estrada told the station.
When the players showed up while chanting his name, Christian expressed his astonishment.
"I literally pretended to pass out when I saw them, it was really cool. I was wowed! I can't explain it! Wowed!" Christian told KTVB.
"He just looked so happy to see us! We were all so excited to be there and all!" Estrada said. "He just wanted to play football with us, showing the presents that he got, he wanted us to stay for cake and stuff like that.“
Larsen said that it was “truly amazing” to watch the players interact with her son.
“Those High School seniors stayed until the end of the party. They interacted with all of the kids,” Larsen said. “They played games and got down on the level of the little kids and got them all involved. Even my not naturally athletically inclined Christian, was running ‘touch downs!’”
The players all sang to him and watched him blow out his candles, she said.
"Well, 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. 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," Holtry told KTVB.
The mother told the station that one of the most important pieces of autism is the social one.
"They can teach him the back and forth of playing. They can help him build relationships not only with them but with kids his own age," she said. "One thing I'd like to say is for parents to talk to their kids, because everyone needs a friend. Talk to your kids about differences that other kids might have."
In her May post, Larsen said she wanted to “tell people to slow their roll. Find time, make time for compassion.”
“It is normal to be uncomfortable with difference or something that is unfamiliar. It is normal to try to joke or ignore to make that uncomfortable feeling go away. But, the best way to get rid of that uncomfortable feeling, is to make it not be so different anymore. If that stranger who acts weird, becomes your acquaintance with a quirk, they may become a friend with something really special,” she wrote.
Fast forward to June, the high school football players have made that special friend with a quirk.
“There is so much good in this world, and when things are hard, the good shines even brighter,” the mother wrote in her June post.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.