WESTFIELD, NJ —Theresa Kuhns, the Cranford mom whose Facebook post went viral after she wrote that Surgent’s Elite School of Gymnastics denied her son Liam a birthday party because he has Down syndrome, said that owner Jim Surgent called her over the weekend to say that he wants to host Liam’s party. The family-owned studio has locations in Westfield, Garwood and Roselle Park.
No one at Surgent’s was immediately available for comment.
Kuhns said that Surgent told her he is hiring someone with special needs experience to get his staff up to date.
Although she’s happy for the news, Kuhns has not decided how she will take Surgent up on his offer. Since Thursday, more than a dozen local businesses and individuals have offered to host or help host Liam’s party for free. By the time Surgent called, the party was already in the works.
Kuhns said she was reluctant to accept the offers, but changed her mind after speaking with Sharon Steele, who runs the Facebook page 365 Things to do in the Cranford/Westfield Area of NJ. Steele explained to her that people who had heard her story just wanted to do something.
“It took all of about five seconds after reading Theresa's post to decide that I was going to tap into my community contacts and make sure Liam had a birthday worth remembering,” Steele told TAP into Westfield. “There wasn't a doubt in my mind that the businesses and the folks in town wouldn't step up.”
Among those lined up to throw Liam’s party in November are Hands of Life Martial Arts, Cake Artist Cafe, Bovella's, Vanilla Bean, Tony's Cafe, Cupcakookie, What Matters For Kids, Therapynook, Valerie Lynn "Wonder Woman,” The Little Gym, Clover Coaches and Cheese … Please. Individuals are donating age-appropriate toys and books to be donated to Liam's school and therapist’s office, as well.
“We’re overwhelmed by it. It’s not something we asked for or needed or wanted,” said Kuhns. “We are completely overwhelmed by the support we’re getting from our neighbors, businesses and community.”
Kuhns said she never expected that her Facebook complaint would go farther than her own circle of friends.
“What did I think would happen? Not this,” said Kuhns. “I thought I’d get like, 10 likes on my Facebook page and my friends would comment.”
Instead, friends re-posted her story, and others re-posted it again, and by the next morning she was being interviewed by TAPinto.net.
“It’s just been a whirlwind,” said Kuhns.
“I didn’t want to put my son in the spotlight,” she said. “In no way was I trying to hurt a business. I didn’t think it was a ‘We hate people with Down syndrome’ thing. We posted about a policy that was in place … and I think it hit a nerve with people.”
Kuhns said she received her share of negative, even hurtful, comments on the internet. But, she said, “The positive has definitely outweighed the negative. There’s been an outpouring of love.”
With a party already lined up for Liam, Kuhns said she may have another, smaller party at Surgent’s—possibly one that includes other kids with Down syndrome.
“If that happens, that would be great. That would be a perfect resolution,” said Kuhns. “At the end of the day, he’s going to have a great birthday party.”