Hallee Sorenson's 18th birthday was a major letdown.
Hallee, who has autism, was supposed to have a big birthday celebration at a local bowling alley in Bangor, Maine. She had the ice cream. She had the cake. She had the balloons. All she needed was some good company.
Only none of her friends ever showed up. Hallee was devastated.
But Hallee's cousin took to social media to make sure her 19th birthday would more than make up for it.
When Hallee's cousin, Rebecca Guilford, posted a photo of Hallee eating her birthday cake alone in that bowling alley, the heartbreaking image went viral.
But this was no call for pity. Rebecca asked people to not only share the story, but to send cards and gifts so that Hallee's next birthday, which is in July, would be her best one ever.
Her message reads:
"But you can help make this years birthday incredible!! I would love to flood her mailbox with birthday cards, from all over! Hal loves getting mail- this would be the best birthday gift she could ask for. If you could find it in your heart to take a few mins out of your day and send her a card, I would be forever greatful. This would mean a lot to her mother as well, for as you can imagine, watching your child cry into her birthday cake breaks your heart. If there is anyone who deserves a great birthday, this is the girl."
What started as a simple request ballooned into an unbelievable show of support, with gifts and cards pouring in from all over the world.
Users on Twitter shared the story, and their cards, using the hashtag #CardsforHallee.
Businesses, police departments, and schools chipped in with their own birthday wishes (and a free meal, if Hallee ever finds herself in Texas!).
And the story exploded on Reddit, where thousands of users wrote that they sent cards, puzzles, stuffed animals, and in one case, flight vouchers so Hallee could go explore a new city.
The Bangor Daily News wrote that the stream of delivery trucks at the Sorensons' home has been nonstop, with some carrying up to 5,000 cards at once.
While all the cards and gifts have been a bountiful surprise for Hallee and her family — Hallee's mother told the Bangor Daily News they'd be donating most of the presents — the response so far has been magnificent and truly heartwarming.
Thousands upon thousands of strangers banded together to support someone who needed a little cheering up, spending their own time and money to make the world just a tiny bit brighter.
It's beautiful to see. And a reminder that the world can still get together to spread love.