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SALT LAKE CITY – The colorful cards arrive from all over the globe at a clip of 1,200 a day — each wishing tiny Addie Fausett happy holidays on what is expected to be her final Christmas.
Six-year-old Addie has an undiagnosed illness that has halted her growth since she was 3 and is now causing cerebral atrophy. Doctors say she has less than one year to live.
She hardly talks anymore and struggles to walk and sleep. She weighs less than 25 pounds. And she can't play with other kids because her illness causes behavior problems.
As her family coped with the painful realization that Addie is dying, her grandmother came up with an idea: Let's ask people from around the globe to send her Christmas cards to cheer her up. Days before the first Facebook post by grandma Maree Jensen, Addie told her mom she wanted friends like her two older sisters and to be able to laugh and play.
"Grandma just wanted to be able to tell Addie she has a lot of friends," said Addie's mother, Tami Fausett. "My mom wanted Addie to think she was really loved. It worked. "
In the first days, they counted the cards one by one, up to eight the week before Thanksgiving. Then, a Salt Lake City TV station ran a story, getting the campaign wider exposure. Now, they count them by the thousands. About 3,000 arrived on Thursday — the same day the family attended a funeral for Addie's father.
Since Monday, more than 1,000 cards have been arriving daily for Addie, said Barbara Gordon, postmaster in the tiny rural town of Fountain Green, Utah, population 1,000, about a 1 ½-hour drive south from Salt Lake City.
"Some of the stamps are so unusual," Gordon said. "They are coming from all over the world."
They have come from Germany, Australia and Saudi Arabia, Tami Fausett said. One judge sent a signed and stamped court order for Addie to have a Merry Christmas. One little boy sent a hand-written note telling Addie he was her boyfriend.
"She loved that one," said Tami Fausett, 29. "She has a couple of boyfriends."
She always smiles when they open the cards. Sometimes she lays on top of all of them on the floor. A couple of times, she's broken down in tears. Not the type that come with a tantrum, her mother said, but the tears that come with emotion.
Addie was a happy, healthy child until she turned 3, her mother says. Then they noticed she stopped growing. A battery of tests were done. They tried giving her steroids to spur her growth.
Nothing worked. Doctors couldn't figure out what it was.
She has been deteriorating rapidly in the last year. She has tremors, twitches and pain in her legs. Last month, an MRI revealed extensive brain damage. Doctors said she probably will live at most one more year, maybe less.
"It's sad," said Amber Brosig, who runs a charity, Children and the Earth Inc., that has been helping the family. "You pick her up and you can't believe she's that old and that little."
They are just treating symptoms and keeping her comfortable, her mother said. Doctors have asked Tami Fausett to fill out a form that states how far she wants physicians to go to keep Addie alive.
"There is still enough of Addie that I don't want to fill that paper out," she said. "That's rough when they hand you that for your child."
For now, the family is finding holiday joy in the daily bounty of colorful cards that bring out the best in Addie.
"I had no idea asking for a card would spread so fast. It means a lot that so many people care that much," Tami Fausett said. "A card doesn't seem like a lot, but to Addie it is so much. It is amazing."