Teen with autism receives nearly 700 birthday cards, personal visits


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A local teenager who has autism is celebrating his 18th birthday with hundreds of birthday cards from all over the world.

We have been following Dante Brown’s story for a few years now. Every year, Brown asks the community for birthday cards. This year, he received almost 700.

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For Linda Lee and her son Dante Brown, who has autism, a living room full of mail and a little singing and dancing can only mean one thing. It is Dante’s birthday. Every year, he has one simple birthday wish.

“He would like to have some birthday cards. He likes getting mail,” Lee said.

Lee said there is something special about getting a simple gesture in the mail.

“You go to the mailbox and it’s like, ‘Hey. This got my name on it.’ And it brings an excitement and for him to see his name on the mail it’s like ‘Wow. You know? Mommy, I got mail. I got mail.’ And it means a lot. It means a lot,” Lee said.

Dante doesn’t just get a letter. He gets letters and letters and letters.

“We’re going to need a room just for Dante’s birthday cards,” Lee said.

Hundreds of people all over the world send him cards.

“Strangers. They don’t know us,” Lee said. “They don’t know him directly. They know him indirectly through Facebook and the media and they reached out and took time to say, ‘Hey. I’m going to send this young man a card to brighten his day.'”

Lee said a woman from a nursing home wanted to give Dante her card personally.

“She made him a beautiful card,” Lee said. “We met her, took some pictures with her. We had another lady come by yesterday and it’s just that the community and surrounding are really really caring.”

Lee also said neighbors and strangers delivered cards on Dante’s birthday along with the fire department and local sheriff’s deputies.

This year, Dante is celebrating a pretty big birthday as he turns 18.

“I’m going to be a man,” Dante said.

Lee said not only is Dante becoming an adult this year, he is also becoming a Lee.

“The next chapter is adoption,” Lee said.

Lee took Dante in shortly after her niece gave birth to him. She said they hope to have the adoption process finalized by the end of the year.

“it’s not been an easy road, but it’s been a road of loving a child like he’s my own. He is my own.”

Lee said she has always considered Dante her son. This is just putting it on paper.

“We just want to continue to give him the best of the best and, you know, it takes a village to raise a child,” Lee said. “The village has been here to help us raise him.”

That village all over the world makes time each year to send a simple gesture in the mail.

“It’s little things that really means a lot,” Lee said. “It’s not the big things in the world. It’s just a little act of kindness that will go a long way and will stick with you forever.”