MCKINNEY – For Chad Kleis and his family of four, normalcy has always remained out of reach.
"It's not Hunter's job to conform to society. It's society's job to find a way to conform to Hunter and all these special kids out there,” said Kleis.
Hunter, who is Chad’s oldest son, has autism. He is high-functioning but non-verbal.
"I don't want to want to belong to this group [of families] but I do,” Chad said. “I'm going to make the most of it and I'm going to do whatever I can to help families just starting this journey."
News 8 first profiled the Collin County father last year.
Hunter had no close friends and never got invited to birthday parties, so his dad asked his own 400 Facebook friends to send his son birthday cards.
That simple request was shared worldwide. In the end, Hunter received more than 10,000 cards and packages.
After those gestures of goodwill from strangers, Chad decided to help other families like his. He ramped up Hunter's Autism Specials, a nonprofit foundation he started, to begin organizing free and discounted events for families with children living on the spectrum to get out of their houses.
In the last year, he has put together about two events a month including a Frisco RoughRiders game, a day on Lake Lewisville, hockey, a professional soccer game, and a craft day inside Home Depot.
Kleis said he knows it’s difficult for parents to go out very often with children who are prone to outbursts and sensitive to loud noises. Mothers and fathers always feel like they have to explain, Kleis continued, unless they’re around other families who live with the same thing.
"Seeing these kids and seeing what they go through drives me,” Kleis explained. “You're just as special as everybody else out there.”
On April 23, Kleis said, Home Depot will sponsor another craft day at 10 of its North Texas stores for children with special needs. Then, on Sept. 11, Hunter’s Autism Specials is hosting an event at Hawaiian Falls for families.
Both are open to anyone, Kleis said, and he posted details on his website.
Last week, Hunter turned 10.
"People still reached out to us and said 'Hey I want to send Hunter another birthday card. Is that OK?' Absolutely,” he said.
So far, Hunter has gotten about 50 or so cards from strangers who are still touched by his story.