Updated: 03/24/2014 12:59 PM
Created: 03/24/2014 11:39 AM KSTP.com
By: Jennie Olson
A new initiative launched by a Minnesota mom aims to give kids with autism a birthday they won’t forget.
Amy Luckow of Kasson, Minn., has a 12-year-old son with autism who has a birthday coming up in April. Unfortunately, Nicholas Luckow’s birthdays haven’t always been the most attended events because of his social disabilities.
"He’s non-verbal, so he understands what’s going on and what’s said to him, he just can’t express his own words," Luckow said. "He always tries to be around other children and do the things they are doing, but there he is, just kind of on the sidelines watching."
Luckow wanted to create a place for parents to post their children’s birthdays and ages in hopes of getting cards and birthday wishes for those who have felt left out or sad about their birthday. The goal is to give kids at least one birthday to remember.
"I grew up always having a special birthday or party and good memories of that, so when your birthday comes around you feel good," Luckow said. She added that her now 19-year-old daughter regularly had birthday parties growing up and that they always remembered how fun they were, but that "it makes me so sad that I’ll never be able to do that for my son."
To give Nicholas the same opportunity, Luckow launched "Project A Birthday to Remember."
Luckow got the idea after hearing the story of a Michigan mom who created a Facebook page for her son, Colin, who has Asperger syndrome. The Facebook page, called "Happy Birthday Colin," received more than 2 million "Likes" and thousands of comments.
"It inspired me to do something like this when I saw Colin's page," Luckow said. "I know we've kind of felt like that every time my son's birthday came around that we could never have a normal birthday for him, and it was always kind of disappointing. I felt like – let’s try to help more children in the same situation."
The website is intended for kids ages 5-17 whose birthdays are at least two weeks away but no more than two months away. Friends and family members can submit the name, age, picture, address, and other information about the child, and everyone who wants to wish them "Happy Birthday" can do so via the website, through the Facebook page or can send cards directly to the child. It’s up to each parent how much information they feel comfortable posting.
The project was launched on March 10, and Luckow said the goal is to reach out to more kids and try to make something memorable.
So far, it’s working. Luckow said the website has gotten a lot of positive response so far, with people as far away as the Netherlands reaching out to her.
"I really do hope it expands," Luckow said. "We will hopefully give many, many children at least one birthday to remember."
View the official website here, and view the project’s Facebook page here.