GRAND LEDGE, Mich. – Donnie Whipple had not seen his uncle Denny for 30 years, but each Christmas he looks forward to opening his uncle’s Christmas card.
When Donnie’s Christmas card to his uncle was returned to him without a forwarding address, Donnie’s sister, Spring Hobbs, posted on Facebook and asked a few friends for help. In 10 days, people from around the world mailed Donnie more than 2,340 Christmas cards.
After that outpouring of generosity, from mostly strangers, Hobbs said she was determined to reunite Donnie with uncle Denny.
Saturday, FOX 17 exclusively followed Donnie’s family to Grand Ledge, where he grew up. Cameras were rolling when uncle Denny walked into the Log Jam restaurant, where there was not a dry eye at the family’s table. Donny and Denny walked right into one another’s arms for a hug.
“This will make my Christmas, getting to see you buddy,” Denny said to Donnie.
Denny is the only surviving relative on Donnie’s biological father’s side. He is busy with work across the state in Jackson. The two had spent decades apart until this Christmas surprise. Through his tears, Donnie said he was very happy to see his uncle.
Sitting side-by-side, both Donnie and Denny wore NASCAR shirts and spent hours catching up.
“When you called me,” Denny said to Donnie, “you made my day, because I’ll tell you buddy, honest to God, I think about you day and night. Even though I’m working all the time, you’re on my mind.”
FOX 17 showed Denny his nephew Donnie’s first TV appearance from Dec. 17. “They’re going to have to put a card room in there, add on another room,” Denny laughed as he watched video of hundreds of cards piled in front of Donnie at his home. .
Denny said he now understands how important it is to send a single Christmas card to Donnie each year, and he now hopes to spend more time together.
“No matter how much you get in the whole wide world, nothing can replace a Christmas card,” said Denny. “The greatest gift I could ever get is seeing him, and knowing he’s well. Made my day when I heard from you, Donnie.”
Donnie's card was returned because Denny had moved. But now as things are sorted out, and Christmas cards for Donnie are still coming. One card, with no return address, was simply addressed to “Donnie as seen on TV, Cedar Springs, Michigan.”
Donnie continues to receive Christmas cards from new friends across the world. He has opened cards from every state except Hawaii, Utah, and New Hampshire.
If you would like to send Donnie a Christmas card, see his Facebook group Cards for Donnie or mail a card to 15263 Pine Lake Avenue, Cedar Springs, MI, 49319.