Christian Larsen wanted to invite all of his classmates to his ninth birthday party. According to his mom, Lindsay, Christian has struggled to connect with his peers on a social level. She hoped that by throwing him a big birthday bash it would give him the opportunity to celebrate with his friends.
As the party fast approaching, she saw that only one classmate had RSPV’d. Lindsay figured that most people were too busy to RSVP and that many of his buddies would still attend. But she quickly realized that many of the kids were intentionally not accepting the invitation after noticing how they interacted with her son as a school picnic. In an emotional Facebook post, she explained the heartbreaking situation:
“I remember growing up and watching my brother ride on the special needs bus. I remember being young in Elementary school and standing up for him and defending other special needs children. I remember being so upset that people would think it was funny to put others down or ignore them.
But, on the other side as an adult, I see the people fed up that they have to stop and wait for a special ed bus. I’ve seen them drive around (on the sidewalk one time!) and shake their heads at the irritation of having to wait. I can promise them, that any parent who needs that specialized and more time-consuming bus stop, wishes they didn’t need it. They wish that their children could run and socialize with the kids on the corner.
I want to tell people to slow their roll. Find time, make time for compassion. Model the behaviors you want your children to have, and when they inevitably still do things that you wish they didn’t, teach them with love. 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.
We need to teach our children that when we feel scared by something, we need to learn about it. Knowledge is power, and we can use it to build the world. We need to understand. (And I’m not talking about tricky people or dangerous things, we also need to protect our children, not expose them to bad things, but even with that, educating them about it is paramount.)
I’m so excited and grateful for the one girl who will be coming. We will make it a great party.”
One of her friends saw the post and alerted high school football coach, Dan Holtry, who then reached out to his players at Nampa High School in Nampa, Idaho. She explained while she was hesitant about Coach Holtry’s offer at first, but was so happy that she ultimately accepted. The team showed up to Christian’s birthday party and made sure it was the best one yet!
“It was truly amazing to watch them,” she wrote. “Those high school seniors stayed until the end of the party. They interacted with all of the kids. They played games and got down on the level of the little kids and got them all involved.”
Larsen was so overcome with emotion to see how happy her son was to feel like “one of the guys”:
“This is probably the best birthday ever, I have lots of best days in my life, and this might be one of them,” she told KTVB.
In the end, a few of Christian’s classmates, some neighbors, and some family friends attended the party along with the football players.
“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,” he told KTVB. “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.”