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July 25, 2019
Date of Event:


ChristianLarsen begged his mother, Lindsay, to throw him a ninth birthday party so hecould invite all of his friends. Finally, she gave in, sending out invitations— and waiting.

Butonly one person RSVP’d.Christian, who has autism, attends Hillsdale Elementaryin Meridian, Idaho. At the picnic marking the end of the school year, Larsensays, she saw firsthand how some of the children interacted with her son:either ignoring Christian or telling him no when he asked them to attend hisparty. It made her think that there might be something more to the lack ofresponses.

On May31, Lindsay posted on Facebook about the lack of responses, and her friendBlythe Ben-David stepped in to make a birthday miracle happen.Ben-David livesin South Texas, far from the Larsen family. She couldn’t be there for theparty, so she reached out to Dan Holtry, a family friend and the football coachat Nampa High School in Idaho.“He has always been a great guy, a genuine guywith a big heart,” Ben-David wrote of Holtry in an email to CNN. “I knew ifanyone could help it would be Dan.”

WhenBen-David asked Holtry whether he could help, he immediately agreed and went“above and beyond,” according to Ben-David.Holtry’s football players were justas receptive.“The players jumped at the opportunity,” Holtry wrote in an emailto CNN. “They were ready and willing to celebrate with Christian. Withinseconds of a sent text they were 100 percent in. No hesitation whatsoever.”WhenChristian’s party rolled around on June 4, a few classmates, some children fromthe neighborhood and some family friends showed up. Christian was runningaround and having a good time when the surprise guests arrived.Holtry and hisplayers showed up chanting his name.

“Theenergy became electric and it was amazing to see how they all came together,”Larsen wrote in an email. “Christian often plays alone, or wanders off, butwith the players there helping organize games, he became part of the action. Hewas playing alongside his peers, as well as the football players. I think ithelped the other young children interact with Christian too.”

Holtryand his players stayed until the very end, playing with the children, singinghappy birthday and watching Christian open some presents.

“I knowthat Christian felt amazed and blessed by the turnout,” his mother said.

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