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Facebook crowdsourcing gives lonely boy 1.4 million friends

For a surprise birthday gift, a Michigan mom creates a Facebook page to show her son -- who has Asperger syndrome -- that he can have friends all over the world.

The "Happy Birthday Colin" Facebook page.
Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

Being 10-years-old is hard enough -- and add in an isolating syndrome like Asperger's and making friends can be even more difficult.

Such is the case of Colin. He is a 10-year-old boy who lives in Michigan and is on the lower end of the autism spectrum. Despite his efforts to make friends, he is usually made fun of and eats his lunch in the school office because other kids won't let him sit at their tables, according to his mother.

When Colin's mother, Jennifer Cunningham, asked him if he wanted a birthday party, he responded that there wasn't any point because he didn't have friends. That's when she decided to surprise him by creating a "Happy Birthday Colin" Facebook page.

"I created this page for my amazing, wonderful, challenging son who is about to turn 11 on March 9th. Because of Colin's disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don't like him," Cunningham wrote on February 2, when she created the page. "So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words, that would be better than any birthday party."

In just 10 days, the page has reached more than 1.4 million likes. Tens of thousands of people from around the world have commented on the page, wishing Colin happy birthday and commending Cunningham for helping her son. Hundreds of others have sent snail mail birthday cards and letters to Colin with good wishes.

As the page continues to gain popularity, Cunningham has shared details about Colin and his disposition. She says he's a thoughtful boy who loves Nintendo 3DS, Pokémon, and Doctor Who. He also doesn't complain about being picked on.

"Not once, despite everything he goes through every day, does he whine or complain about having to go to school," Cunningham wrote last week. "When I asked him why he said, 'Because you've got [to] keep trying.'"

Colin still doesn't know about the surprise awaiting him. Cunningham will reveal the Facebook page to him on his birthday in March.

"Colin was telling me all the people from countries all over the world that he has 'met' via friend codes on his DS," Cunningham wrote on Friday, "and I was dying to tell him about the thousands of people all over the world that know his name because of this page, but we have a month to go yet till his birthday, so I kept it in."