A boy's seventh birthday didn't turn out the way he imagined. Now, he has a new sense of hope.
Cole Hittler is from St. Charles. He was born on April 29. Two members of his immediate family were also born in April.
"We have one big birthday party for the entire family, for all the kids," Cole's mom, Tracey Hittler, said.
Cole has dealt with major challenges in his young life. He had skull surgery as an infant. When he was four, he was diagnosed with apraxia, a rare disorder affecting his speech. Now a first grader at Harris Elementary School, Cole has come a long way.
"When he entered kindergarten he could only say five words," Hittler said. "Today, 90 percent intelligibility."
But life is full of ups and downs. This year's birthday party wasn't too great.
"The kids all get to invite their whole entire classrooms," Hittler said.
While there were guests from his siblings' classrooms, no one from Cole's class came.
"It was hard for him and he was really sad," Hittler said.
Hittler took to Facebook. She explained what happened to members of a support group for parents of kids with apraxia.
"Then I just posted a cute little Snapchat picture of us," she said.
That's all it took. Messages from strangers flooded her inbox, asking for her address.
"Next thing you know, mailman is at the door with boxes and the mailbox is exploding with cards," Hittler said.
More than 60 cards have come from all over the country. An entire fifth grade class sent Cole cards. Some people even sent him toys. Hittler also received messages online from people in different parts of the world. She says it turned out not to be such a bad birthday after all.
Cole's family is glad his story is spreading awareness about apraxia. Apraxia Awareness Day is May 14. There will also be a walk for the cause on August 12 at Officer Blake Snyder Memorial Park.