Turning 5 years old is a milestone for Noah Nero. He was born with a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means he's missing the left side of his heart.
"Considering everything he went through, we really didn't think he was going to reach a month old," explained his mom, Cherish.
He's undergone three open-heart surgeries but now needs a heart transplant. He's at All Children's Hospital, waiting for a donor.
"He's been on the transplant list for 33 days so far. So we're here until he gets a heart," Cherish continued.
His birthday was September 21, but they couldn't do a big party or invite a lot of people. So Cherish's niece Kim decided to create a "card party" -- asking people to mail in birthday cards.
"She got on Facebook and asked her friends to pass it on to their friends. And their friends to pass it on to their friends," she said.
And the result?
"We started receiving cards. The post office was totally bombarded with cards. We have a very small P.O. box, so every day, she'd go check it and they would have keys to bigger post office boxes," Cherish said.
The cards came in from everywhere.
"These are people I don't know, some people didn't even sign it, just a smiley face or from 'your friend.' The postmarks where they were from, all over the U.S.; some from Germany and England, Australia," she described.
They've received 3,000 cards so far. It took 15 family members two hours to open all the cards. Then Cherish started reading each one.
"I was in tears as I was going through the cards. I read, I think, 284 last night. And I thought I was going to flood the room," she said.
Noah's room is covered in Mickey Mouse: His sheets, balloons, stuffed animals. Those are the cards he loves the most -- that and the ones that play music.
His mom can't believe so many strangers would take a minute to send a card.
"People reaching out to this little boy that they don't even know, to this family they don't even know," she said.
Cherish's niece also asked those who can to send in a $1 bill with the card. The family has had extra expenses in addition to their hospital bills.
"We had to put our two girls in daycare, which is not an expense that really fits into our budget," Cherish added.
Cherish plans to keep every single card and show them to Noah when he's older.
For more information:
Here is their story on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/357565224323121/
Here is where to send cards:
C/O Bill Nero
PO Box 7005
Hudson, FL 34667
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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