FOXBOROUGH — For days, the birthday cards and packages streamed into the town post office, some from as close as Boston, others from as far as Japan. By Friday, tens of thousands of cards sat stacked in trays alongside carts filled with hundred of packages, taking up an entire wing of the post office.
All were gifts for Danny Nickerson, a Foxborough boy with an inoperable brain tumor. Friday, surrounded by family, friends, and truckloads of gifts, he celebrated his sixth birthday by diving into the mail carts as if it they were ball pits.
“This is unbelievable,” said Danny’s mother, Carley Nickerson. “We’re going to be opening these for a long time.”
Be it by mail or social media, hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe wished Danny a happy birthday.
As of Friday, he’d received more than 100,000 birthday cards and 7,000 packages, said Michael Powers, district manager for the US Postal Service in Greater Boston. He expects mail for Danny will keeping trickling in for a few weeks.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “And I’ve been here 35 years.”
Last fall, Danny was diagnosed with a type of brian tumor known as a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, for which survival is highly unlikely. Chemotherapy and visits to the doctor became routine and forced Danny to leave school, so his mother wanted to make this birthday special.
Two weeks ago, she sent a letter to the Attleboro Sun Chronicle asking readers to send Danny birthday cards because he loved receiving them. The paper featured Danny in a front-page story that went viral online after being posted on the website Reddit.
Soon, there were hashtags and pictures on Twitter of birthday cards people said they were sending Danny.
In a sign of the story’s popularity, celebrities joined in. Actor Ashton Kutcher exhorted fans on his website to send the 6-year-old birthday wishes, and a picture of rapper Lil Wayne and others holding a large birthday card for Danny was posted on Twitter. A Facebook page the family set up had more than 40,000 likes by Friday.
A picture of him sitting in a box of letters in the trunk of a car, a gleeful smile playing on his face, was shared hundreds of times on Facebook and Twitter on Thursday, Nickerson said.
On Friday, the birthday boy came to claim his haul at the post office, arriving in a fire engine as a special guest of local firefighters, fresh out of a practice with the New England Patriots and a trip to the Legoland park in Somerville.
His grandfather, George Murphy, played “Happy Birthday” on a trumpet as Danny came in carried by his father, Dan Jamieson.
“I’m going to need a letter opener,” Jamieson quipped when he caught sight of the boxes.
Initially overwhelmed by the masses of mail, Danny jumped into a cart after a few minutes and disappeared under a sea of boxes. A small one in purple gift wrap caught his eye and he tore it open, smiling ecstatically. It turned out to be a puzzle kit. He put it down, reaching for the next box.
He posed for pictures and ate cake alongside his little brother and cousins, as family, postal workers, and news cameras followed him, the unequivocal center of attention. An aide from a state representative’s office even presented him with a certificate of commendation.
On a table inside the main sorting room, the most eye-catching gifts were carefully organized. There was a rubber turtle without any packaging sent from postal workers in Florida. A large blue ball with drawings on it, evidently from someone close to Danny’s age, stood next to another box wrapped in Christmas decorations.
Pictures of a person in a Mario costume were glued to the sides of a box larger than Danny, offering no clue as to what lay inside.
Danny’s mom had let people know that Mario and Legos are two of Danny’s favorite things in the world. On Thursday and Friday, his admirers obliged, sending everything from Halloween outfits to video games to action figures related to both.
On hand at the post office were more than a dozen relatives helping to take the gifts and store them. The basement at Danny’s house was already full from the day before, when thousands of cards and packages had already arrived. A trailer truck and a van, courtesy of the post office, were going to take most of the gifts home Friday.
Danny’s grandfather said doctors have told the family Danny might not live past next spring.
“There’s always a first person who survives something,” Murphy said, staring at the table of gifts. “Who knows, with all this?”
Watch: Danny at the post office