Six-year-old Addie Fausett likely is celebrating her last Christmas.
The Utah girl suffers from a terminal illness that causes cerebral atrophy. Her motor and speech skills have deteriorated so much that she can't walk or say more than one word at a time, and her doctors do not expect her to live another year.
She can, however, open letters, and when Mount Nittany eighth-grader Ashley Wolynec learned what was at the top of Addie's Christmas list — a lifetime of Christmas cards — she had to respond.
Wolynec emailed Principal Brian Ishler about two weeks ago to ask if she could spearhead a school effort to make Christmas cards for Addie. They decided students could volunteer to make Addie cards in the school's Responsible Organization Attitude and Respect groups, which meet once or twice a week.
Ishler said he knew the idea would be a good opportunity for students to give to someone else for Christmas.
"I don't think we expected the magnitude of the response we got from so many students, and it greatly shows how caring students are; when they're asked they step up to the plate," Ishler said.
On Monday, Wolynec had a box with about 500 cards postmarked for P.O. Box 162 in Fountain Green, Utah.
Despite being separated by about 1,800 miles, Wolynec said she felt a connection to Addie.
"When I first read about her I was really upset about what she's going through, and I was thinking a lot about being in her shoes," Wolynec said. "I felt like I just really wanted to help make her Christmas special."
A lot of other people felt the same way.
Addie and her sisters — Audree, 7, and Shayley, 10 — have received more than 400,000 Christmas cards and presents this month. The outpouring of Christmas cheer has caused the Fountain Green post office, which serves the town's 1,100 residents, to increase its staff from one person to nine on some days.
"I'm the only one here, because we only get 1,500 to 2,000 letters and packages in a typical day," Fountain Green postmaster Barbara Gordon said. "Now, we're getting 15,000 to 20,000 a day from every state you can name and all over the world."
Compounding Addie's ordeal is that her father passed away unexpectedly Nov. 28, making this the first Christmas the sisters won't spend with their father.
"I can't think of the memories they won't have with him, and the things she won't experience," Wolynec said. "She won't get to go to parties and sleepovers or go to school. It's really sad to think about."
Addie's story went viral after Utah-based charity Children and The Earth created a short post about her on its website in November.
Amber Brosig, who manages the charity, didn't expect a worldwide response.
"It's been overwhelming," Brosig said. "I've been doing this for seven years, and we're a small organization. It's just been so overwhelming, but mostly because it's so nice to see people's compassion bring Addie so much joy."
Brosig said Addie's family has been overwhelmed, too, and decided to stop doing interviews so they could focus on enjoying Christmas. She said she visits the family once a week.
"Addie's health is declining so fast, and that part of it is just so sad to see," Brosig said. "When she opens the cards, though, she hands them to her mom and claps. She can't wait for her mom to read each one to her, and that part of it is just so amazing."
Wolynec could picture Addie opening the card she made for her.
"It makes me ecstatic that she can still open them and that she can get so much joy from them," Wolynec said. "I've thought about her opening our cards and my card, and I know it will make her day. She's amazing in my eyes."