This is the stuff movies are made of: That painful moment when no one shows up at a child’s birthday party because they’re “different.”
For 10-year-old Mackenzie Moretter of Shakopee, Minnesota, this scene played out in real life as she celebrated her birthday last Tuesday. Mackenzie, diagnosed with a rare disorder called Sotos Syndrome when she was just 1 year old, was turned down by every friend she invited to her birthday party. Mackenzie’s dad, Matthew Moretter, said that her condition has made it difficult for her to make friends.
Moretter tells USA Today that Mackenzie’s genetic disorder was originally discovered when a tumor fused to her spine as a baby. He explains, “It causes gigantism where kids grow at a faster pace. So Mackenzie is a lot taller than other classmates. Kids are friendly to her, but she doesn’t have friends. No one calls and talks to her. I’ll show up at her school and she will be playing alone.”
Mackenzie was sad that none of the kids she invited wanted to come to her party. Then her mom, Jenny Moretter, took to Facebook, asking her own friends to bring their daughters to the party.
Her Facebook post stated, “Hello moms. I’m writing because I have a beautiful daughter named Mackenzie who is turning 10. I recently invited several girls to her birthday party this Saturday. I got cancellations or no calls at all saying whether they’re coming or not. My daughter has Sotos Syndrome which means she has development delays such as speech and learning. At school she struggles and is often alone on the playground.”
“As a mother, it is heartbreaking being you want your children to be happy. I’m reaching out to moms who have daughters between the age of 9-11 that would love to come to a birthday party tomorrow from 11-1:30. You don’t have to bring gifts or stay long, just stop by and wish her a happy birthday. As of now, I have two girls coming which is family (sic). She would be so surprised to have other girls just show up. If you are interested please send me a pm and I’ll give you my address. Thank you all for reading a mother’s wish!”
This heartfelt Facebook plea went viral. Though none of Mackenzie’s classmates could be bothered to attend, the 300-person all-star guest list more than made up for it, with celeb attendees like Charles Johnson of the Minnesota Vikings and his family and Elsa from Frozen. Mayor Brad Tabke of Shakopee even declared April 18, 2015, to be “Mackenzie Moretter Day.” Not bad for an epic birthday bash that came together in just 12 hours.
Hearing a story like this is the happy ending most parents need when we think of our kids facing the cruel world out there. But there’s another important lesson we can take from this story: What about the kids who chose not to come? What about their parents?
I get that schedule conflicts and life get in the way, and kids can’t attend every birthday party. But there’s something seriously wrong with the fact that not one child RSVPed to Mackenzie’s birthday party. Parents, the next time your kid brings a birthday party invitation home from school, give it a closer look. Birthday parties are not a popularity contest. Every kid deserves to be celebrated on their special day. If your child goes to just one birthday party of a classmate who isn’t their “friend,” maybe a heartbreaking story like this could be prevented in the first place.