BUDA, Illinois--It's the little things that make Joey Bauer smile, so imagine his surprise when a crowd of people showed up to his 13th birthday party.
"I’ve got friends here that drove two and a half hours just to be with him... that speaks a lot to the good hearts in people," says Joey's mom, Bonnie Bauer.
Dozens of people packed the Taylor Memorial in Buda, Illinois, with gifts and kind words for the birthday boy.
"(13 years old) is a special age on its own and to know his birthdays are numbered... That’s the hard part," says Bonnie.
Joey has CLN3 Battens disease, a rare genetic mutation in the blood that will eventually cause blindness, lack of motion and juvenile Alzheimer’s.
With a life expectancy anywhere from age 16 to 30, the Bauer family says they want to make each special occasion count for Joey.
That’s why his family and friends threw him a party the weekend before his birthday.
A party filled with some of his favorite things, like Star Wars themed gifts and more than three thousand birthday cards sent to him from people all over the world.
“He’s just shocked. He keeps looking at them going wow, he’s enjoying it though,” says Bonnie.
Finding strength in kind words from complete strangers and his loving family that knows him best.
Bonnie plans to wallpaper Joey’s room with all his new cards, so he can see them every day.
Students at Bureau Valley Junior High are planning another birthday party for Joey Wednesday, October 25, in the Bureau Valley High School gymnasium in Manlius, Illinois.