Wales

Autism: Strangers help Abertillery girl celebrate birthday

Remi Robbins Image copyright PJ Robins
Image caption The local community rallied after friends failed to show up for Remi's birthday

The father of an autistic girl said he was "blown away" when strangers responded to a desperate plea to help his daughter celebrate her birthday.

Remi was so upset when only two children turned up for her fifth birthday party that she asked her mother "where are all my friends?"

So her dad PJ Robins put an invitation online for anyone to join them.

However he was "overwhelmed" when strangers flocked to the Eden Play Centre in Abertillery, many with gifts.

PJ and his partner Becki had invited 10 of Remi's friends to the birthday party on Sunday. But while two people cancelled that morning, the others failed to show.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption PJ's posts on social media groups gained plenty of responses

"It all looked like it was going to go pear-shaped," said PJ, 40.

"When she asked her mum where all her friends were, it was heartbreaking.

"Remi's autism means you need to prepare her for things. So when her party didn't match what she had in her mind, she was so forlorn.

"We were sat there on the verge of tears but we thought, no, this is wrong. So out of desperation we sent out that message."

Image copyright PJ Robins
Image caption "The beautiful smile on her face made it all worth it"

PJ, a carer, posted on a local community group on Facebook asking for people to drop by and the response was remarkable.

Within minutes, his phone was buzzing and strangers were arriving at the play centre's door.

"We were very clear that we didn't want any gifts. The party was paid for, there was food, and we just wanted people to pop along and help our little girl celebrate," he said.

About 14 children and parents joined the party while a similar number - many with gifts and cards - dropped by to wish Remi happy birthday.

"The kindness of the community - people we had never met - was absolutely mind-blowing," said PJ.

"It was very emotional and completely restored our faith in humanity. I'm so proud to say I'm part of this community."

Image copyright PJ Robins
Image caption Remi's autism makes it difficult to spring surprises

Though a little "bewildered" at first, Remi swiftly got used to her new friends and celebrated her birthday with a smile.

"The beautiful smile on her face when her cake came out made it all worth while," said PJ.

Since the party, the family has also been contacted by the parents of other autistic children offering support and play-dates.

Adele Jones, manager of the Eden Play Centre, said: "All the staff rallied around but we were absolutely blown away when people started coming through the door.

"Some were even just popping in leaving gifts. It was so beautiful."

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