It’s just a wild guess, but Maria Ibanez-Donaldson estimates that her son, Jorge, has received about 1,000 birthday cards — enough to bury his bed.
The cards have come from all over the United States, and as far away as Spain, Denmark, Germany and Japan. They all contain good wishes, and some have gift cards or coffee cards.
“Happy birthday from Fenway Park in Boston,” wrote Shaun, presumably from Massachussetts, in all caps on a postcard. “Have a wonderful day! Get better buddy!”
Jorge Ibanez-Ruiz turns 15 on Wednesday, and no one in his family is taking it for granted.
He has been fighting for his life since June, when he was diagnosed with bone cancer. He’s getting chemotherapy treatments every other week until December, and next week he’ll have surgery to remove a tumor in his knee.
On Tuesday afternoon, he was like any other teenage boy — not very talkative and focused primarily on playing a video game, specifically “Star Wars Battlefront.” His mom brought the boxes of cards into his bedroom, and his 3-year-old sister, Dulcemaria, gleefully played in the piles.
“I told you, man, we’re going to have to write a heckuva lot of thank you cards,” said Kelly Clifton, a Meridian man who became a friend of Jorge’s family after seeing their story on TV a week ago. They all wore yellow bracelets that he made.
Jorge was diagnosed on June 28, his mother said.
“They said, ‘This is really dangerous. You want to start [treatments] today?’ ” she recalled. “He was really depressed.”
There weren’t a lot of warning signs of Jorge’s illness. The ninth-grader at Hillside Junior High School complained of knee pain after playing soccer during recess. His parents thought the pain was related to being struck, so they were shocked to be told he has osteosarcoma.
The Boise boy’s spirits were visibly bolstered by cards and letters from family and friends — so his parents started a public campaign to solicit postcards for his birthday.
Ibanez-Donaldson posted a note in early August on the Boise Bench Dwellers Facebook group, asking for people to mail her son postcards for his birthday.
“For him to be happy and to know that people care. The more postcards we get the happier he’ll be and more excited,” Sidney Donaldson, the boy’s father, told KIVI-Channel 6 last week.
The story spread rapidly on social media in the Treasure Valley — and from coast to coast.
A Fox affiliate in Oakland, Calif., shared the story on its Facebook page, and it received more than 1,200 likes and nearly 600 shares.
People have sent more than cards and letters. He’s also received a baseball hat, an iPod Nano and cupcakes. Someone has promised to deliver a Star Wars birthday cake on Wednesday.
“He loves Star Wars,” his mom said.