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Norwich birthday boy Andon Gatti received 1,398 cards and packages from all over the world for his 13th birthday

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Norwich resident 13-year-old Andon Gatti surverys the almost 1,400 cards and packages he received for his 13th birthday on December 12. Submitted photo

Norwich resident 13-year-old Andon Gatti surverys the almost 1,400 cards and packages he received for his 13th birthday on December 12. Submitted photo

 Andon Gatti was all smiles Monday as the realization set in that his birthday celebration had become better than any 13-year-old could expect.

“His birthday was amazing,” said Andon’s mother Janelle Penny-Gatti.

Back in November, the Facebook page 'Cards for Andon' was started in order to give the Norwich mom’s special needs son “the best birthday I can.”

Describing her son as funny, loving and caring, Penny-Gatti said a birthday party would just be overwhelming for her son who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Andon’s cerebral palsy affects his right side and he is unable to use his right arm. He also wears a leg brace and has vision and some anxiety issues.

His classmates are from all over province, making it difficult to gather them up for his 13th birthday that he celebrated Monday.

So instead of having a party to mark the special day, Penny-Gatti came up with an idea for her son who loves to get mail, but rarely gets any.

She started by posting a request for birthday cards on her Facebook page, which was quickly shared 120 times.

Then her friend Jillian Vanden Beukel started 'Cards for Andon', a page totally devoted to the project.

Eventually the group grew to over 2,300 people, and so it was really no surprise that Andon received 1,398 cards and packages.

He even received a surprise visit from Batman.

“It was a bit overwhelming for him but he opened over 300 cards (Monday) night,” his mother said. “He was very excited.”

Penny-Gatti said she hopes the attention will raise awareness about children with special needs and that “a child with special needs is still a kid.”

She also wants to express her gratitude to everyone who helped making Andon’s milestone birthday the best day it could be.

“I would like… to really just thank everyone for their cards love and support,” she said. “We as a family will never forget what everyone did to make Andon's 13th the best birthday ever. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

HRivers@postmedia.com