THE POWER of social media can often come under heavy criticism as youngsters in the 21st century become fixated to mobile phones, tablets and laptops.
However for one Coventry youngster, that power provided a very special birthday surprise.
Michael Martin was diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare and deadly genetic disease, just two months after his 13th birthday.
The now 16-year-old has been moved to four different schools and even missed two years of education since his diagnosis – resulting in a loss of friends.
However the brave youngster proved to be the man of the city on Tuesday (September 13) as hundreds of people responded to an appeal from his mum on Facebook to send the birthday boy a celebratory card for his 16th birthday.
Twelve months ago, Michael received just five cards to celebrate his 15th birthday, but the warm-hearted folk of Coventry and beyond united to give him the birthday treat he deserved.
Astonishingly, cards flew in from all four corners of the globe as people wrote to the teenager from Australia, New Zealand, America, Europe and across the UK.
The birthday boy’s day got even better when star footballer John Terry and his Chelsea colleagues took time out of training to wish the keen Blues fan a happy birthday by sending their own card.
The appeal has even landed Michael a new set of pen pal friends who he has promised to stay in touch with after receiving birthday wishes.
With added support from the Spotted Coventry Facebook group, proud mum Lynette told The Observer opening all the cards proved incredibly emotional and she was incredibly proud of her boy.
She said: “I cannot thank the people who sent Michael a card enough.
“Their kind words mean so much and reading the lovely messages was a bit emotional.
“Michael loved opening his cards and all the special gifts he received, his 16th birthday was definitely one to remember.”
It wasn’t just cards Michael received, the 16-year-old also received an electric guitar from workers at Jaguar Land Rover after Rich Tricker urged staff to get involved with the appeal.
As Michael suffers from autism, he often struggles to communicate and form friendships with other people.
Lynette said: “He asked for a special birthday party just before his 16th and I was a little worried about what to do.
“I remembered seeing a post last year where someone appealed for birthday cards so I thought I’d try to do the same and the response was incredible.
“Michael has received well over 250 birthday cards from all over the world – the postman must wonder who we are.
“It’s hard as Michael has lost a lot of friends over the past few years and apart from his family he doesn’t have many people to fall back on.
“He suffered from bullying at school and he can get bored, this was a lovely gesture from the people of Coventry and beyond – I cannot express how thankful I am.”