Kindness is contagious, and 5-year-old Alexis Blackburn is living proof. With a little help from her dad Kyle, she inspired the Reddit community to send well wishes to sick children in hospitals throughout the country.
Alexis was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was 3 years old, and her mother, Tara Blackburn, wrote about the experience on her personal blog. In January 2012, Tara said Alexis' symptoms started to flare up: "Joint pain, going to the restroom 20-30 times a day, loosing more blood than I thought was possible, persistent vomiting, fevers, loss of appetite and being so tired and weak she could barely stay out of bed for more than 20 minutes at a time."
Alexis was treated in the hospital -- she had "multiple Remicade infusions, as well as several blood transfusions" -- but ultimately, Tara wrote, her daughter wasn't getting any better.
Alexis had surgery on July 12. Afterward her dad, Kyle, whose Reddit username is MrCountCrackula, posted a photo of his daughter to the site with the caption, "My daughter had her colon removed 3 days ago. She found the strength to walk to the playroom yesterday."
Commenters were supportive and wished Alexis a speedy recovery. One user, caritasings, asked if there was anything Reddit could do for Alexis: "Does she like drawings or pizza?"
Kyle wrote back, "she likes both! you can also send her a card that the hospital prints out and delivers to her room. room # H05A15"
And then, just one day later, this happened:
"Alexis received 136 cards from Redditors wishing her well today! She just wanted to say thanks!" Kyle wrote.
It wasn't just cards. One Redditor crafted a picture of Alexis and her doll out of wood and posted a video of the creation on YouTube.
The compassion didn't stop there. Someone started another Reddit thread to find more sick children who might need a little love -- and a whole bunch of cards. A poster wrote about a 13-year-old recovering from a car accident in Toronto, another recommended her own child, who has undergone two brain surgeries and is turning 7 in just a few days. Someone even uploaded a photo of a care package sent to a little boy in the U.K.:
On Monday, Tara expressed on her blog how overwhelmed her family is with the support they've received from the Reddit community. "WOW! It's hard to believe that Alexis' story has reached so many people," she wrote, "It has made this entire experience so much easier. It's mind blowing how much support you can get from absolute strangers! THANK YOU!!!!!"
And mom delivered an update that her daughter is recovering smoothly. "Alexis is doing great! After a week of no eating, she was given the okay to chow down on some actual food today!" she wrote.