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Saturday 19 October 2019

Barry's glee - 4,000 cards sent after birthday appeal

Barry Connolly shows off just some of the cards
Barry Connolly shows off just some of the cards

A young man with autism was overwhelmed to receive more than 4,000 birthday cards after his mum made a public appeal to help him celebrate turning 30.

An outpouring of public generosity led to the delivery by An Post of thousands of cards to Barry Connolly from all over the country and as far away as the UK, Dubai and Australia.

Even celebrities took the time to send greetings to Barry.

Signed cards from the cast of Fair City, from rally driver Rosemary Smith, a signed Everton jersey from footballer Seamus Coleman and a signed photo of Shane Lowry from his mum and dad were just some of the cards that piled up in the local post office.

Mum Sharon, from Ballivor, Co Meath, made the appeal on social media as she feared her son, who adores opening cards, would only receive a few for his milestone birthday.

But she said she was "totally shocked" when a trickle of cards turned into a flood over the few days leading up to his birthday on Thursday.

Grateful

"Oh my gosh. I couldn't believe it. There are so, so many good people out there who took the time and money to get a card and post it to Barry.

"And for that, myself, my husband Seamus, Barry and Barry's sister Leanne will be forever grateful.

"I put the appeal up on Monday and was thrilled to get 36 cards on Tuesday. I arrived home on Wednesday and found a note from An Post asking me to collect a registered letter.

"I thought it was lovely that someone had taken time to send a registered letter.

"But when I arrived at the post office, I was told there were 835 cards and 15 brown envelopes, each stuffed with dozens of cards from schools all over the country.

"I was stunned. I thought I was going to collect one.

"Then on Thursday, Barry's birthday, nearly another 2,000 cards were delivered, along with flowers and loads of bars of chocolate. One couple even drove over from Drogheda with a card.

"There are cards from Fair City and rally driver Rosemary Smith as well as a signed jersey from Seamus Coleman and even a photo of Shane Lowry from his parents.

"Mind you, we haven't even opened half the cards yet so there could even be one in there from the Pope, you never know.

"I had to hide them all in the kitchen until Thursday evening to show Barry, who was just overwhelmed.

"He said he felt like an actor but when I told him he was famous, he said he didn't want to be famous, but just to be like an ordinary person.

"He honestly can't really take it in at the minute.

"We spent hours opening all the cards and Barry had to read each verse carefully. There are still loads more to be opened.

"It'll keep him going until Christmas."

A further 1,000 cards were delivered yesterday.

"The reaction from people has just been amazing. It has made Barry's birthday and my week. I'll never be able to repay their kindness but from the bottom of all of our hearts, we'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who sent a card.

"I'd better also thank Linda McGourty, the postwoman who delivered them all."

Barry tugged at the nation's heartstrings when Sharon revealed that she was told to lock him in a room and forget about him as a baby.

"No one really knew about autism back then," she said.

"We were told bluntly to lock our then two-year-old son in a room and forget all about him. We were told that he'd never be toilet trained, never talk and never progress.

"But look at him now. He goes to Praxis Care in Navan which has boosted his independence with two jobs at the Ardboyne Hotel in the town and in St Vincent de Paul. He's such a smashing young man."

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