HELOTES, Texas – After no one showed for Diego Hernandez's 14th birthday party, the O'Connor High School varsity football team took matters into their own hands.
Diego, an 8th-grader at John Folks Middle School, had planned to have friends over Sunday to bake cookies and hang out for his birthday, but an hour before the party, Diego told his mom he was going to have to cancel – no one could make it.
Diego's sister Marissa, a junior at O'Connor High School, was in Houston with her club soccer team and tweeted her frustration after learning no one showed.
"My little brother invited eight 'friends' over for his birthday and none of them showed up," Marissa Tweeted. "He is a really big (O'Connor) football fan and I know he would love if anyone on the team would eat lunch with him, it would make his birthday unforgettable."
my little brother invited 8 "friends" over for his birthday and none of them showed up... he is a really big OC football fan and i know he would love if anyone on the team would eat lunch with him it would make his birthday unforgettable!! pic.twitter.com/fF2lujgnM5— Mari (@marissah099) December 11, 2017
Minutes after her tweet, O'Connor football's wide receiver Jalen Hughes texted Marissa asking how the team could help.
Marissa got way more than she asked for in her tweet – instead, the varsity football team put together a surprise birthday party for Diego at the Aspen Creek Grill. All of this in 24 hours.
Marissa and members of the football team, along with their parents, got to Aspen Creek Grill on Monday before the planned 7 p.m. dinner to decorate, but when Marissa arrived she texted her mom in shock – the players and their parents had arrived even earlier to put up streamers, table decorations and balloons. Someone on the team even got Diego a cake.
What started as an event for 30 or so people soon expanded well beyond their plans.
Many members of the football team showed up with their families. Marissa's friends, members of other sports teams at O'Connor and students from Clark High School and Taft High School also showed up to Diego's birthday bash.
The entire party remained a surprise to Diego. His parents told him they were going to eat, but toward the end of the car ride, they blindfolded Diego and told him they were going somewhere else. He was met with a giant "surprise!" when he was walked into the restaurant.
"He didn't expect it," Monica said. "Remember, 24 hours before that, he felt like no one liked him and that he was nothing."
Monica said in addition to throwing him a birthday bash, the team talked to him, recounting similar experiences they had in middle school.
"Within the course of the night every single one of them talked to him," Monica said. "It wasn't like they did something nice, 'ok lets go,' but they talked to him and told him he mattered. They told him if he needed anything to let them know, and they meant it."
Monica said the entire ordeal, though surprising, spoke to the familial structure of the Helotes community. Monica said her family is very involved with O'Connor athletics and the booster club with her daughter being a member of the varsity soccer team, but she said no one knew Diego was her son; all of the generosity came as a result of the community expressing genuine concern for one of their own.
Diego received presents including a football signed by the team, hoodies and money. He said it was the best birthday ever.
Posted by Monica Cruz Hernandez on Tuesday, December 12, 2017