CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last month, I asked a favor of readers -- to send mail to a young Scott Depot man named Timothy Merrill -- because getting the mail was one of Tim's daily chores, and he'd commented to his mom that there was never any mail for him.
For those who missed the original story, Tim is 23 years old and has Down syndrome. I talked with his mom, Kathy Gwinn, after she put a posting on Facebook looking to drum up some mail for him because she knew it would make him happy.
And, thanks to you, Tim's had a lot to be happy about.
Since the story ran -- and was kindly forwarded to people all over the world -- Tim has received 1,613 pieces of mail from 41 states, as well as Australia, Canada, Germany, Crete, Belgium, Sweden, New Zealand, Iceland, Afghanistan, Singapore and England.
Country singer Brad Paisley, a West Virginia native, sent autographed photos, guitar picks and a keychain. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin sent a Certificate of Friendship granting Tim status as a "Distinguished Mountaineer." Many teachers made a class project of sending mail, among them a pre-K class at Clay Elementary and a class at South Charleston High School, from which Tim graduated in 2009.
He received mail from a few insurance companies and police departments, including the chief of police, several from the Fraternal Order of Police, one that included a patch that had been worn by a member of the West Virginia State Police (a big hit with Tim). There were cards from pets, singing cards, a heartfelt record-a-message card. Notes came from churches and post office employees and a circuit court judge. He got a touching letter from an inmate at Mount Olive Correctional Facility, an invitation to visit Disney World, and a card from Australia that included Australian coins.
There were so many cards from so many people, and Tim had lots of favorites.
"He loved the ones with stickers or drawings or pictures," his mother said. But he got the biggest kick out of a couple of restaurant gift cards that came in the mail because it meant he could treat his family to dinner for a change. He got such a charge out of that.