by Sara Garrity, MSW
We determine our personal narrative with every new decision we make.
That’s an easy sentence to write, but a hard one to remember when no one shows up for your child’s birthday party.
Sandy and Nick Himsl, the parents of Zechariah (Zech) Himsl, a 10-year-old boy with autism, were featured in an article by the Flathead Beacon. Zech enjoys building toys, so asking his peers to gift him a Lego piece for his last birthday sounded like a great idea. Zech would have enough Legos to build a creation he could submit to Lego Magazine.
Unfortunately, not one peer was able to attend his party. As his August birthday approached this year, his family worried. No one wanted to see Zech endure the same painful feelings that resulted from his party, nor did they want to endure the pain of seeing him hurt. Sandy explains:
"He can see the difference between his birthday celebration and those of his two sisters. They have full parties with at least 8-10 friends, his were adult family members acting like kids in an attempt to make up for it. He invited some boys near our home and none of them came, and this continued through last year. We are a family of six living on a very strict minimal budget after my husband being laid off and finding work making a bit less."
So she came up with a twist for this year’s celebration – she posted a Facebook message explaining her wish to collect 50 Lego pieces for Zech by mail to gift him on his birthday. She thought with over two months to go, it was an attainable request and a way to ensure Zech had a great day no matter what. Sandy described to us how she arrived at the decision:
"I knew I couldn't do much of anything this year for Zechariah. I felt like asking for help was my only choice. I wanted to show him people outside our home DO care and give him a special birthday. He mentioned that it would be neat to get a Lego from different people and build something. I paired that with others stories I had heard of parents asking others to send cards, so I decided to give it a try.
Honestly, my only hesitation was that no one would respond. I didn't want to experience the feeling of my son being rejected again and not be able to give him a birthday party. That's why I asked two months early, I figured I would have time to beg people if need be.
The response has been amazing and beautiful."
She could not have predicted profound outpouring of love and support that resulted from her request. Her post shared with over 14,000 people who pledged to send Lego pieces for Zech’s birthday. It also resonated with other families in her area, who reached out to schedule play dates and social outings with her mostly isolated son.
There was no way to change what happened last year. The only thing they could do was change what was next.
And the decision they made changed his life and their story forever.
For more information on Zech’s upcoming birthday party, check the Voices for Forrest Facebook page. To contribute a card and a Lego piece, send the package to:
2248 Pintail Court, Kalispell, Montana, 59901.
Let's Write Zech a New Birthday Story was originally published on June 19, 2015. Modifications to style, arrangement, and linked sources were made on January 8, 2016.
Priddy, Molly. "Building a Birthday for Zech." Flathead Beacon. Flathead Beacon., 9 June 2015. Web. 17 June 2015.
Layton, Jill. "The Internet gave a 10-year-old boy without friends a dream birthday. BRB we're crying." Hellogiggles. Hellogiggles., 12 June 2015. Web. 18 June 2015.