Savage’s Bakery had fielded plenty of calls for birthday cakes in the past, but Kim Kirkpatrick’s request was a little bit different to usual. You see, the mom had told the bakery’s co-owner Elizabeth Scott that her daughter, Amy, would soon be celebrating her 13th birthday.
Kirkpatrick gave Scott instructions about the type of cake that she had envisioned for Amy, but one comment in particular struck the baker. Upon hearing it, the wheels were already turning in the bakery-owner’s mind as she came up with an even better idea for the mom and daughter. And what she did next was certainly a surprise to them both.
According to Kirkpatrick, the soon-to-be-teenager appreciated the little things, particularly in nature. Amy adored flowers, for one, especially the summertime varieties that blossom in bright colors. The almost 13-year-old and her family lived on a farm, mind you, so she had access to the great outdoors. And she had an affinity for the chickens living there as well.
Although Amy had no trouble finding joy in life’s simplest pleasures, she had a more difficult path than other kids her age. That’s because the almost-13-year-old is autistic. And according to the Autism Speaks organization, this is a disorder that affects approximately one in every 59 children.
Autism actually manifests itself in various different ways, although it often causes difficulties with speech, social skills and repetitive behaviors. Those on the condition’s spectrum may also experience sensory issues – disliking particular feelings, sounds or sights, for instance.
According to Autism Speaks, “Each person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges.” And this means there is no one single treatment for the disorder, as the best course of action will be tailored to each individual. Thus there is not exactly a roadmap for somebody such as Amy.
That’s right, as Amy’s 13th birthday drew closer, Kirkpatrick’s simple way to celebrate her daughter’s milestone was to order a cake for her soon-to-be teen. And to make the confection even more sensorily pleasing, the mom knew just the design to request.
So, Kirkpatrick called Savage’s Bakery in Homewood, Alabama, and began speaking to Elizabeth Scott, who co-owns the establishment with her father. And Scott told the Over the Mountain Journal“her heart melted” when she heard what the mom had to say.
It turned out that Kirkpatrick knew specifically what she wanted on Amy’s 13th birthday cake: flowers – and lots of them. Given Amy’s appreciation of flora and fauna, this was perhaps unsurprising. Kirkpatrick also went on to mention the fact that her daughter has autism, but it was the mom’s final admission that got Scott thinking.
“[Kirkpatrick] mentioned her daughter had never had a birthday party,” Scott said. And for the professional baker, whose creations were centerpieces at countless celebrations, this sad situation was unbelievable. The mom had good reason for skirting hosting duties, though.
Previously, Kirkpatrick had tried to organize a birthday party for her daughter. She had delivered invitations, but, on the day of the celebration, no one had turned up. She “couldn’t let her daughter go through that again,” according to Alabama-centric website AL.com.
Nonetheless, drawn to the tale, Scott felt compelled to try again. “This spoke to my heart. I told [Kirkpatrick] we would invite a bunch of folks and make it extra special,” she said. Once Amy’s mom agreed to her proposition, the bakery owner got to work planning the soiree.
Scott, of course, wanted to make sure that the party would not exacerbate any of Amy’s sensory issues. As a result, she contacted a not-for-profit organization based in Alabama called KultureCity, which aims to make community spaces comfortable for those with autism.
For KultureCity’s founder, Dr. Julian Maha, his organization’s cause – and the intent behind Scott’s admirable party-planning mission – was very close to his heart. His young son also has autism, and he has had similar experiences to Amy when it came to birthday parties.
According to Maha, a harsh reality for autistic children is that “no one ever invites you to their birthday party, and no one ever attends a birthday party for you.” But a celebration for Amy could change that state of affairs, and KultureCity played a big part in making it possible.
Rather than providing Scott with instructions on how to make the birthday party sensory-friendly, however, KultureCity actually gave her the resources to do just that. They provided a cornhole game, a bounce house and a specialized van, called SAVE, to make the party a success.
Scott also shared an invitation to Amy’s birthday party on the Facebook page for the bakery. As she told the Over the Mountain Journal, “[Kirkpatrick] didn’t have a lot of family or friends that might be able to come, but I told her not to worry. We would make it extra special.”
On the big day, a multitude of kids from all across Alabama showed up to celebrate Amy’s big day. The newly minted 13-year-old started her day by checking out KultureCity’s SAVE vehicle. Thankfully, the specially-designed space was a perfect place to begin the party.
Inside, Amy and other attendees found cozy chairs made from bean bags as well as textured walls to touch. The group additionally discovered thoughtful lighting arrangements and calming water features. Every detail was deliberately designed to soothe children with sensitivity to certain stimuli.
What’s more, Maha noted that Amy’s foray into the SAVE vehicle with her party guests worked wonders for her. “The other kids joined her in it, which relieved her anxiety. She went in [to the bakery] after that and had a really good time at the party,” he said.
Needless to say, Kirkpatrick couldn’t have been more thrilled with how the day turned out, especially as she watched Amy interact with new children. “It’s hard to get autistic kids in with regular kids during play time,” Kirkpatrick told the Over the Mountain Journal.
Kirkpatrick went on to say, “This is Amy’s first birthday party that she’s actually been invited to… She doesn’t have any friends, except she has some that she talks to at school, but that’s it.” And yet, that day, strangers young and old stopped by to wish her a happy birthday, bring gifts and play games with her.
Scott was also impressed by the turnout and the benefits of appealing to the locals. “We’ve had people walk in and see what was happening and [then] go next door, buy gifts and bring them for her. So it’s really been more than we ever thought it would be,” she said.
Of all the gifts she received, Amy seemingly had a particular favorite, Kirkpatrick told AL.com. The item in question was a bright, cuddly stuffed toy in the shape of a chicken. It even clucked. “She loves chickens. She had a field day with that,” the proud mom said.
Meanwhile, Amy also had food to eat, including the cake that instigated the wonderful chain of events. And that, too, paid homage to one of her favorite things. Colorful blossoms covered the gorgeous rectangular treat, you see, and the birthday girl was even able to see the bakery’s decorating room, where the creation was formed.
After the party ended, in fact, the teenager said that tucking into the bloom-covered treat had been her highlight. In other words, Scott’s plan had definitely come to fruition. “We made it a special day for her. Amy was all smiles, all day long,” she explained.
And the success of the big party led Kirkpatrick to change her tune on birthday celebrations for her daughter in the future. “From here on out, if Amy wants to have a party here every year forever, then that’s what we’ll do,” she told the Over the Mountain Journal.
For Scott, the event was a prime example of how their bakery is run. “It’s a family business, and that’s really what we’re all about, community and family. If we can do little things like this every once in a while, then it really makes what we do all the more special and rewarding,” she explained.
And, because Scott threw the soiree without any personal prior experience with autism, Maha felt he and KultureCity were successful in their mission to provide tangible help. “People like Elizabeth, for me, are the reason we do what we do,” he told AL.com.
“If we can convert someone like Elizabeth, who really has no personal connection to disabilities, and take that message of inclusion and acceptance to the next level, we’ve done our job,” Maha concluded. Scott is doubtless an inspiring role model for many.
Indeed, communities around the country have rallied around kids celebrating birthdays to make their milestones truly unforgettable. Take, as another example, a North Carolina-based birthday party hampered by bad weather and derailed by allergens.
Initially, Melissa Reid had envisioned her son Jackson and 15 of his friends spending the day in celebration of his third birthday. The chosen venue was a Monkey Joe’s play center. In the hours leading up to his scheduled soiree, however, Reid’s phone had started to ring.
One by one, the parents of Jackson’s invited guests called Reid to say that their children couldn’t make it. As heartbreaking as that was, however, she knew why they weren’t coming. “We just went through a hurricane, and I’m sure there are some allergens and some funky stuff in the air,” Reid told Inside Edition.
While Reid added that she “totally [understood]” why parents were canceling, she was also left with a pretty huge dilemma. Jackson had woken up that day ready to celebrate his third birthday, but only one invitee could still come to his party at Monkey Joe’s.
“[Jackson] had no idea what was going on,” Reid recalled. “My husband and I were kind of going back and forth. ‘What should we do? Should we cancel it? Should we just have the one friend that could come over to our house instead?’” she added. Fortunately, Reid’s maternal instinct quickly kicked in.
Reid knew Jackson loved fire trucks and firefighters, so therefore she right away picked up her phone and then made a call of her own. Potentially the local firehouse could give her son a tour on his birthday. The possibility was surely worth pursuing, after all.
Harrisburg Fire Department’s Captain Joe Yowler answered her call. As he later explained to Inside Edition, “I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I got off the phone, I called two other stations and said, ‘Hey, what do you guys think about coming over and helping out?’”
By the time the Reids arrived at the station, all of the department’s largest fire trucks sat outside. The firemen had also spruced the place up with decorations and balloons. In fact, they’d even sweetly set up a spread of ice cream and cupcakes for the birthday boy.
For Jackson’s mom, the fire department’s efforts meant so much. “I was thanking them, and I could barely keep it together. Jackson realizes that these men are his heroes, they are his friends. They have gone above and beyond to make his day special,” Reid said.
Yowler, just like those who planned 13-year-old Amy’s birthday party, apparently realized how important his gesture was to young Jackson. “It doesn’t take much out of anybody’s day, or anybody’s effort, to just say, ‘Yes,’ and do something good,” he humbly said.