May 24, 2017 | by The Salvation Army

After weeks of planning, a mother had to make a tough call - she had cancel her son’s birthday party. With tears in her eyes, the mother called the Kroc Corps Community Center and explained to Venessa that no one was going to show up for her autistic son’s seventh birthday party. Venessa instantly sympathized with this mother:

“As a parent of an autistic child myself, I know what the daily struggles are for her. Being able to take care of this one thing, to make sure that this little boy had a birthday party, was my mission.”

Venessa recognized how important it was for this little boy to have a happy birthday. She asked the mom if she would agree to keep her party reservation if there would be other kids who could attend. The mother agreed and Venessa went right to work.

She began calling staff, friends and family and eventually pulled together a group of children who would all come and celebrate this child’s special day. Going even further, Venessa discovered that the little boy had a fondness for police officers, so she reached out to the Salem Police Department who agreed to be a part of the surprise.

On the day of the party, a shy and excited boy arrived at the Kroc Center to a whole host of people who were there to wish him a very happy birthday. As balloon animals were made and games were played, the lights dimmed and a team of Police Officers entered into the party with a candle-lit cake singing, “happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you….” The boy’s eyes lit up as bright as the candles on the cake, and his mother could not hold back her tears. Only this time, they weren’t tears of disappointment - they were tears of joy.

Visit for more of about The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center. 

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