After thousands sent him birthday wishes, a Nova Scotia boy is returning the kindness | CBC News

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There might be more than a month before Christmas, but a Digby, N.S., boy has been hard at work creating, printing and packaging holiday cards for thousands of lucky recipients.

Joey Connolly, who has autism, embraced his love of greeting cards earlier this year, after his parents shared on social media that he was being bullied at school and all he wanted for his 12th birthday was 100 cards. 

That number was quickly surpassed, with Joey receiving more than 1,000 cards from around the world, including notes with hand-drawn characters, an official birthday wish from P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and even a letter from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Now Joey is returning the favour. He has made more than 2,700 holiday postcards for people and groups around the Maritimes.

“It really just was a fun adventure, an opportunity for Joey to give back, to get his name out there that this is what he loves, is what he’s passionate about and show what someone with autism loves to do,” said Renee Connolly, who is Joey’s mom.

A boy sitting with hundreds of birthday cards in front of him.
Connolly poses with hundreds of cards he received before his birthday on April 3. He received several hand-drawn photos, kind words and even a flag from P.E.I. (Renee Connolly )

Connolly, who is a business administration student at NSCC, said they came up with the idea this summer, so she started by emailing organizations they thought would be interested in receiving cards from Joey to share with members.

She said they had a goal of creating 1,000 postcards, which is Joey’s favourite number, but the response they got had them printing more and more. 

Connolly said she and Joey started working on the cards Thanksgiving weekend, and it took three weeks to finish.

She said the cards were sent out last week to a number of organizations, including seniors’ homes, local schools, Ronald McDonald House, Autism Nova Scotia, the Conway Workshop Association and Inclusion Clare.

A young boy waits patiently next to a printer as holiday cards are printed out.
Connolly used his mom’s printer to create the postcards. (Renee Connolly)

They also sent cards to several groups on Prince Edward Island, because a local Facebook page was the first to share Joey’s desire to receive birthday cards earlier this year.

“P.E.I. — I can’t say enough about P.E.I,” she said.

“They got the ball rolling for Joey and now Nova Scotia is starting to recognize that Joey is pretty awesome, which he always has been.”

Connolly said Joey recently sent a letter to Santa Claus through Canada Post, so he included a few of the Christmas cards in hopes the jolly fellow will share them with the mail carriers.

A pile of large brown and yellow envelopes. The top one has a card on the front that says Merry Christmas.
Joey and his mom, Renee Connolly, prepared dozens of large envelopes filled with postcards that organizations will be able to share with their members. (Renee Connolly)

Cards helping him at school

Connolly said Joey’s love of cards has made a “phenomenal” difference in his school experience. Now in Grade 7, his self-esteem is better and he has been making new friends, Connolloy said.

He’s even known as Joey the Card King.

“It [started] like a joke and now it’s my real nickname,” Joey said.

Connolly said his teachers have been incorporating the cards into his English lessons, which he has struggled with.

“The teachers are using cards as a way of helping him to increase his skills and also help him with socialization,” she said. 

Both sides of a post card, one of which features a cartoon image of Snoopy and his dog house that is decorated for Christmas and the other shows an image of a young boy.
One of Joey’s cards features Snoopy and the other side has a picture of him giving a thumbs up. (Renee Connolly)

“Because even like a year ago, he was very shy and now he’s starting to go up to people and say, ‘Hi, how are you,’ and he’s starting to be a lot more social and [we’re] very thankful for that.”

Connolly said they’re planning to make Joey’s holiday cards an annual tradition, with a new goal of 6,000 cards next year.

“I think that even those who are not neurodivergent, have autism — it’s great to show your passions and what makes you happy and make others happy,” Connolly said.

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