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SALEM, Utah County — A Springville boy with Down syndrome had just one wish for his 9th birthday — 99 birthday cards. It's a request his parents put on Facebook and it went viral. He got so much more than he ever expected including a big surprise Friday night.
Rhett Bird has been through a number of surgeries in his short life. His parents said his favorite thing while in the hospital was getting cards. In the weeks leading up to his birthday, they said they weren't surprised that's all he wanted.
On Rhett's birthday Tuesday, the little boy jumped around as the Salem Hills student body dropped off hundreds of cards.
Every night since then, cards have rolled into the family's PO Box.
"Happy Birthday Rhett," read Rhett's dad, Andy, surrounded by thousands of cards on the floor of family's living room.
Bird said the first couple of days they were able to read all the cards, but not any more.
The cards have poured in by the thousands from all over the world.
"Italy, Switzerland, Hawaii, Alaska and almost every state," Bird said.
Friday night, the community did something to take Rhett's birthday wish even further. The Salem Hills Skyhawks football team welcomed him onto the field carrying the game ball, and of course gave Rhett a jersey emblazoned with the number nine.
The cheering crowd received a surprise too as the energetic boy danced for everyone.
At halftime, the final birthday card total was announced at 10,979.
The family said they feel so much support, both in their small Utah County community and throughout the world.
"It takes a lot to sit here and not choke up and cry just thinking about how people actually care who never met him," Bird said.