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B.C. dad's tweet sparks viral empathy after son's lonely birthday party

16 of 19 Vancouver parents apparently missed the birthday party memo emailed to them.
David Chen
David Chen says his son Max had a blast at his birthday party where only one of 19 classmates attended.

Vancouver resident David Chen was hoping last Saturday’s birthday party was going to be a blast for his son Max, who is on the autism spectrum.

As it turned out, only one of Max’s classmates showed up to the indoor adventure playground.

While Max had a “blast,” as he was unaware of the circumstances, “it was quite depressing,” said Chen describing his gut feeling that day.

Chen isn’t sure what the motives were for the 16 of 19 parents who did not RSVP to his email invitation. After his tweet went viral on Sunday and Chen spoke to local media, he received messages from six parents stating the invitation landed in their junk inbox.

While he hasn’t heard from the other 10, he is still not ready to conclude his invitations were largely ignored for reasons attributable to his son’s condition.

“I don’t want to make assumptions,” said Chen.

“One would think there might be a response; I don’t know, I don’t have the answer. I don’t want to place the blame finger. I think that’s the worst thing you can do. What I wanted to do is bring attention to what life is like daily. It was quite depressing to have no one at the party,” said Chen.

“It triggered a lot of other people sharing they’ve experienced the same heartbreak,” he added.

"It happened to my grandson too many years ago. The house was decorated. Gift bags. So much food. One kid and his mom came to the door and handed him a present and left. It was so heartbreaking," reads one reply to the viral post.

"Wow I am at a loss for words hearing your experience. I wish I could give you a hug in person," Chen responded.

"Happy birthday to your child. For those of us who are different in any way, we cherish the friends who show up. He’s lucky to have you advocating for him. May he always have someone who gets him at his side," reads another reply.

A silver lining has emerged, however.

Chen says he’s reached out to his school’s parent advisory council and is seeking ways to avoid any potential miscommunications for parents with regards to birthday invitations and social events.