ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork/CBS News) — A heartbreaking Facebook post has inspired people all over the globe, and a New Jersey father is thanking strangers for bringing a smile to his son’s face.
As CBS2’s Fatima Rahmatulla reported, Bob Cornelius of Rockaway Township, New Jersey was at his youngest son’s back-to-school night when he spotted his little boy’s assignment and a snapped a couple of photos.
“So it said, list your favorite food – ‘pizza.’ List your favorite sport, hence the soccer balls,” Cornelius said.
But when Cornelius took a closer look at the picture when he got home, the one thing that now stood out to him the most was the printed entry that began a sentence, “Some of my friends are…” and left a line the student to finish it.
“He wrote, ‘No one,’” Cornelius said.
In a Facebook post that has been shared more than 43,000 times, Cornelius shared his thoughts about his autistic son Christopher and other kids who feel left out.
“As far as I know, (save for one time), Christopher’s classmates have never been overtly cruel to him,” he wrote in a post that has now gone viral with more than 11,000 shares. “What they have done, however, is to exclude him.”
The New Jersey dad is a social worker, who works with parents — like himself — who have children with special needs. He’s constantly giving advice.
“The irony is — I didn’t have a solution for myself,” Cornelius told CBS News.
So he went to Facebook and urged his 250 friends to spread the word.
“When your child’s in pain, you want to fix it,” Cornelius said.
The outpouring of support has been global. Letters have come from the NYPD, and even Argentina and Australia.
One boy wrote: “Dear Christopher, my name is Nate and I’m 10 years old…. We can always be friends and I hope you have a great year.”
Another wrote: “Hi Christopher. My name is Reese. I’m in 6th grade too. I also like pizza! We can be friends if you want.”
“This is humbling. This over overwhelming,” Cornelius said. “It makes me feel grateful — grateful to people that have the kindness to reach out to a boy.”
Cornelius hopes that his post has started a conversation about why children should have more empathy for those with special needs.
“Take a look around the room and see if there’s anybody that’s not being included and reach out to them,” Cornelius said. “It might not always be comfortable it might not always be popular. It takes a certain amount of bravery to include those that are different.”
Cornelius said he has received hundreds of messages from Facebook parents of special needs children. He also said the postmaster told him there are even more letters coming for his son.