Spreading birthday card love in the time of coronavirus

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Mona Helgeland

This photo provided by Mona Helgeland in lgrd, Norway, shows a birthday card made by an American from Idaho and member of the Facebook group "Random Acts of Kindness" for her daughter Kristine, who is about to celebrate her 17th birthday. Helgeland appealed to members of the virtual group to send birthday wishes to her daughter, who was disappointed that her party had to be canceled due to coronavirus concerns. (Mona Helgeland via AP)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Mona Helgeland was sad for her children. Their birthdays were coming up but they were self-quarantined because of the coronavirus and going to miss celebrating with friends and family.

So, the Norwegian single mother of two went on Facebook groups and asked people to send greeting cards. She said she has been “blown away by the kindness.” In just a few days since that first post, she has received dozens of cards from across the world - from Alaska to South Africa.

"It's beautiful. I started crying," Helgeland, 37, said about the cards that some have posted with drawings of her son's favorite Japanese cartoon characters, or cows, zebras and hearts, as well as photos from the studio where they make the Harry Potter films that her children love.

To Helgeland, who has a painful spinal joint disorder called ankylosing spondylitis, the message during these uncertain times is clear: “It’s important to stay positive and take care of each other and spread love, not just the virus.”

Tens of millions of people were hunkered down Tuesday. Countries across the globe shut their borders, and cities locked down, closing schools and businesses to try to curb the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 190,000 people and killed more than 7,500.

The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but severe illness is more likely in the elderly and people with existing health problems. More than 80,000 people have recovered from the illness.

Amid the grim news Helgeland has seen goodness, one card at a time.

"They're making the effort, going out of their way for someone they don't even know,” Helgeland said in an interview via videoconferencing. “I'm blown away by their kindness."