A Bedford, N.S., preteen has a bunch of new friends and a great story to tell after his mom used the power of the internet to give him a belated birthday gift.
Ali Kafafy turned 12 at the end of March, but he didn’t want a birthday party at the time because he didn’t think anyone would show up.
He had recently changed schools and was having difficulty making friends.
“I knew that some people wouldn’t come and I didn’t want to feel hurt,” he told CBC’s Information Morning.
With the school year coming to an end, his mom, Olesya Shyvikova, decided to give it another try.
She planned a “Hi Junior High” party to mark the end of her son’s elementary school years, complete with food, disco music, party games and more.
But there was a problem: out of the 30 invitations that were sent out, only two people responded — one yes and one no.
The silence was the worst, said Shyvikova.
“The party was last Sunday, and come Saturday morning, I keep checking my phone every five minutes,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Saturday afternoon rolled around, and with only one person on the guest list, she decided to turn to Facebook.
Shyvikova posted in a group called Ask Nova Scotia and asked anyone with children to drop by the party, which was being held at their home near the Sunnyside Mall .
The response was great, she said, and she ended up fielding messages from around the province.
“We had all these party supplies and stuff, and we even went and bought more just in case because we didn’t know how many people are coming,” she said.
She even got messages from people who couldn’t make it, but wanted to arrange a play date in the future.
About 15 people ended up coming to the party on Sunday to enjoy some pizza, music and games.
‘It feels like people care’
Kafafy said he was pleased with the turnout — and not just because of the gifts and cards he got.
“That feeling was amazing. It feels like people care, it feels like the community cares,” he said.
The story struck a chord with a number of people on Facebook, many of whom commented in support of the boy on an update post from Monday.
“Maybe the word will get out to his classmates and they’ll realize what an opportunity they missed,” wrote one Facebook user.
‘This makes my heart so full’
“I’m ugly crying first thing in the morning,” wrote another. “This makes my heart so full to know there are genuinely good people still.”
Shyvikova said in the days following the party, her son has a newfound spring in his step.
“We saw a whole different level of confidence thanks to those people that showed up on our doorstep,” she said.
“We just connected to the strangers that came to our house as strangers and walked [out] as friends.”
She added she made some friends too.
“We regretted that we didn’t have wine for the moms,” she said with a laugh.
For Kafafy, the experience more than made up for the birthday party that never happened in March.
“I have a bunch of new friends now, and it feels like you actually are friends. You’re not just lonely and ignored all the time,” he said.
“I was 12 for a while, but now I feel like I’m officially 12 now.”