Over the course of Monday morning, Bangor mom Allyson Seel-Sorenson had two FedEx trucks, one UPS truck and two U.S. Postal Service trucks show up at her door, bearing countless birthday cards and gifts for her daughter, Hallee Sorenson. One of those post office trucks contained more than 5,000 birthday cards. And that’s just one morning — since Friday, there have been more mail deliveries than the family can keep up with.
Her daughter was last week the subject of a Facebook post that went viral, showing Hallee, who has autism, sitting alone at her 18th birthday party at Bangor-Brewing Bowling Lanes in Brewer — which nobody showed up for. Her cousin Rebecca posted that photo and asked people to send her little cousin cards.
Little did they know that post would take off like a rocket, turning into a worldwide viral sensation.
“We have been getting entire trucks for just Hallee… they even sent one on Sunday,” said Seel-Sorenson. “It’s unbelievable. I’m laughing at it, and then I’m crying.”
So far, Seel-Sorenson estimates Hallee has received more than 6,000 cards. The family’s garage is already packed to the gills with mail. Considering the fact that the Facebook post didn’t reach full viral capacity until Friday, and that it usually takes a few days for cards and letters to get through the mail, that means that the deluge of well-wishes has only just begun. And that doesn’t include cards coming from overseas, since the Hallee story also took off in the U.K. thanks to posts by both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph.
And though the family has stressed that they do not want birthday gifts — just cards — some folks have still sent presents. Seel-Sorenson said that while everything sent is appreciated, they do not plan to keep the vast majority of gifts they have received.
“We’ll pick a few things for Hallee and her sister to keep, put aside a few things for Christmas and the rest we’ll donate,” she said.
One of the things the family does plan to keep is a handmade afghan, crocheted by a grandmother in California and sent next day mail to the family.
“[She sent it] with a note from ‘Your adopted grandmother,’ said Seel-Sorenson. “We’re keeping that.”
The post has also inspired folks beyond simply sending cards and gifts — because the family’s home address was shared in the post, some people have called the Bangor Police Department, concerned for their safety.
“The Bangor PD showed up last night at 9:30 because a caller from Arkansas was worried about us because our home address is out there now,” said Seel-Sorenson. “So out these poor two cops had to come in the rain to check on us. This is 9:30 at night.”
Mom has done her best to shield Hallee — who, as an autistic person, is very sensitive to chaos and sudden surprises — from the overwhelming impact of the Facebook post.
“The florist has been here many times today and Hallee told him so politely, ‘That’s enough, you have a nice day,'” said Seel-Sorenson.
But Hallee did respond very well to one thing in particular: when she saw her picture on the cover of the Bangor Daily News at a Hannaford Supermarket in Bangor.
“She said, ‘It’s all me!! It’s Hallee!’ said Seel-Sorenson. “She got that one.”