'Devastating': Vancouver dad's tweet about son's empty birthday party strikes nerve
A Vancouver dad whose son is on the autism spectrum took to social media to share how painful it was to see only one classmate at his birthday party. Now, he's receiving a flood of support that he hopes marks the start of an important conversation.
David Chen is a father of four and has planned and attended his fair share of kids' birthday parties. So when Max was turning six, he sent out invitations, rented out an indoor playground, assembled goodie bags, and bought enough cupcakes for all 19 kids in the class.
'IN THAT MOMENT, THE EMPTINESS HIT'
The party was set for Saturday and cancelling was not an option, even though 16 of the 19 families of Max's classmates had not replied to the invitation. Even as he tried to make the best of the situation, Chen said he was struck with sadness when he looked around and saw no one sitting at the child-sized tables or playing on the jungle gym.
"I thought I was OK with not a lot of people coming out, but in that moment, that emptiness hit," he said.
"I thought, I can't be the only one that's gone through something like this, and this must traumatize people. So I thought I'd put it out there … It was just devastating."
Since he tweeted, he's received hundreds and hundreds of responses. Many are from parents whose children are also "the different kid in the class," while others are from adults who still remember exactly what it was like to be in Max's position.
"One which still makes my heart bleed right now thinking about it is they said, 'It happened to me 30 years ago. I just keep thinking about that echo, about how much it has impacted someone, this very simple thing of a class birthday party,'" Chen tells CTV News.
One of the things that was most difficult, Chen says, was seeing that Max was disappointed. While his son has some difficulty describing what he is feeling, Chen knew when Max said "It was fine," it actually wasn't.
Max's teacher was among those who saw the post and worked with Chen to throw a party in the classroom Monday. The uneaten cupcakes and undistributed goodie bags were shared with the whole class.
"When he came back and I asked him, 'How was it?' He goes, 'I loved it!'" Chen says.
"For someone who can't verbalize his emotions, I have to go off of his reactions. And it's such a difference. It was really good that they tried their best to fix the situation, and seeing the difference in his face today was magnificent."
'WE ALL NEED TO LEARN TO DO THIS BETTER'
While Chen is happy his son got a party, he says the experience has made him very aware of how significant these experiences can be for children and families. He's drafted a guide for the PAC to distribute with packages welcoming families at the start of the school year that addresses birthday parties.
The first thing he hopes is that families will realize how important it is just to respond to the invitation when it's sent out. The uncertainty he faced when he didn’t hear back from most parents is something Chen said created a lot of worry and grief.
The next is that he hopes these things can be planned in a way that will break down some unnecessary barriers and make the events more inclusive. For example, Chen says some families opt out of these events because they can’t afford to buy a gift and feel ashamed about showing up without one. Others might not be able to eat the food most commonly served, like pizza or hot dogs.
"We need to all learn how to do this better. We only have a very finite period at which point we can actually invite a whole class. And once that period is gone, it's gone forever. And so this is where I think a lot of good can come out of this," he says.
"We have to celebrate our differences and just be stronger together. Because honestly, inside we're all the same."
Chen says he's also been busy trying to connect with everyone who reached out after his initial tweet.
"Especially for people who've experienced this, they are left out. So imagine if they left a comment and they never heard back? That's more being left out. That's why there's a part of me that's like 'I've got to answer every single one if I can."
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Canada pledged $50 million to prevent Ukrainian grain from going to waste on Sunday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to work with G7 nations on further measures to halt the famine caused by the Russian invasion of the embattled country.
Canada's chief of defence says Russia's invasion of Ukraine is going to change the course of history.
Cat and dog owners who cuddle their pets when infected with COVID-19 could end up making the animals sick with the virus, according to a Canadian study.
David Cohen has been the United States' Ambassador to Canada since November 2021, and in the time since, both Canada and the United States have experienced a series of shared challenges. In an interview at his official residence in Ottawa, Cohen opens up about the state of the relationship.
Russian President Valdimir Putin was a target of mockery by leaders of the Group of Seven, as they sat around a table Sunday, commencing their three-day summit in Bavarian Alps, Germany.
Russia shattered weeks of relative calm in the Ukrainian capital with long-range missiles fired toward Kyiv early Sunday, an apparent Kremlin show-of-force as Western leaders meet in Europe to strengthen their military and economic support of Ukraine.
The latest on the G7 summit: The Group of Seven leading democratic economies has formally launched at its annual summit a global infastructure and investment partnership aimed at pushing back China's influence in the developing world.
Norway's prime minister and members of the royal family joined mourners at a memorial service Sunday at Oslo Cathedral for the victims of a shooting attack as the capital held its annual LGBTQ Pride festival.
New research looking at the frequency of heavy rainfall across the globe shows that a drastic increase in downpours is expected over the years to come.
Victoria police arrested a man for allegedly sexually assaulting several strangers in quick succession in the city's downtown Saturday night.
Each of the 28 pyramids holds 136 plants, which the Harvest and Share Food Society distributes to local food banks when they're mature.
Mounties on Quadra Island are investigating what they call a "linen heist" at a local resort.
Organizers of a central Alberta rodeo and its parade committee are calling for calm after a float in this weekend's parade, which possessed a racist theme, was seen in the procession.
Police are looking for suspects after they say a man was injured in a shooting late Saturday.
If you are looking for some more time on the slopes even though it's already summer, you might be pleased by an opportunity at Banff Sunshine Village.
People are getting ready to return to Wakamne, God's Lake, on pilgrimage when the Pope visits Alberta.
The Edmonton Police Service is searching for a 13-year-old girl that was last seen Friday morning.
After nearly five decades, a new ambulance provider will assume emergency medical services in Cold Lake, Alta., this fall.
Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of downtown Toronto on Sunday as the city's Pride parade returned for the first time in two years.
There are now more than 50 outdoor pools open across Toronto where people can go to beat the heat.
A heat warning remains in place for the remainder of the weekend in Toronto, but temperatures are expected to cool down Sunday evening.
A man in crisis stabbed several people Sunday morning in downtown Montreal, leaving one dead and three injured.
The Montreal fire department (SIM) is advising citizens to avoid the intersection of Sherbrooke St. East near Durocher Ave. as a major building fire is blazing.
McGill University medical students are trying to help treat people who are addicted to opioids. They say many aren't equipped to handle the withdrawal.
Residents in Gimli are dealing with overland flooding due to high water levels on Lake Winnipeg and strong winds.
'We can't believe it': Winnipeggers come together to throw surprise baby shower for new Ukrainian couple
A Winnipeg woman is making sure a couple from Ukraine is feeling right at home as they prepare to welcome their first child.
Lori Ann Mancheese's death is now one of five women in the span of about a month being grieved by members of the province's Indigenous community. Winnipeg police say three of those women were murdered.
The Saskatchewan New Democratic Party has elected Carla Beck as its new leader.
When Ennio Muzzolini walked into Christies Mayfair Bakery in 1965 interested in purchasing the small bakery on 33rd Street, he never imagined he’d one day be looking on as hundreds of people lined the block to get their hands on a baguette, cinnamon bun or wood-fired pizza.
Organizers have decided to cancel the Elk Ridge Open due to an “inordinate amount of rain.”
The Saskatchewan New Democratic Party has elected Carla Beck as its new leader.
The ‘ultra low fare’ carrier Swoop entered the Saskatchewan air travel market earlier in June and currently serves three domestic routes out of Regina and Saskatoon.
Over 400 people contributed to the Field of Dreams project, which led to the purchase of a large track of prairie grasslands for preservation.
As HMCS Kingston and Summerside pulled away from Halifax Harbour and deployed for Operation Reassurance, there was no shortage of emotion from family members who came to see them off.
The inquiry into Nova Scotia’s 2020 mass shooting, says four pages of handwritten notes that sparked a political firestorm in Ottawa this week, weren’t immediately submitted when subpoenaed by its investigators.
'It’s in shambles': RCMP 'architects of own demise,' says criminologist after complaints in N.B. and N.S.
After a week of criticism and anger at the Mass Casualty Commission in Nova Scotia, and outcry in a rural area of New Brunswick, there are questions about the RCMP’s role in community policing.
You may not know his name, but he’s performed alongside some of the all-time music greats.
'We were able to cool the propane tanks in time': Two families displaced after morning fire in London, Ont.
Residents were able to safely escape a house fire Sunday morning in London.
After being delayed over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the air fest took off this weekend at the St. Thomas Municipal Airport.
OPP Tweet: Highway 17 closed at Sand Bay Road at the Spanish River bridge.
A person was taken to hospital after a shooting on the Sheguiandah First Nation on Manitoulin Island Friday.
The Holistic Healing Fair is back in Sault Ste. Marie following a two-year absence.
The latest developments for encampments in Waterloo Region, field trips being paid for, and a new hospital for the area round out the top stories of the week.
An essential caregiver in Waterloo Region is looking to remind the community that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over and the protections in place for the most vulnerable may not be enough.
Norfolk County OPP are asking for the public's help with an arson case from three years ago.