Dozens of people attend birthday party for woman with autism

Josie's birthday party at Oaks Amusement Park on Oct. 1 (KATU News photo)

Dozens of strangers showed up to Oaks Amusement Park on windy Saturday afternoon to help a young woman with autism celebrate her birthday.

A group helped organize the party for Josie Eugenie, 24, through the site crowdFunnit. Josie, who grew up on the Autism spectrum had never had a traditional birthday party that many of us take for granted.

“Being Autistic, I’ve always had difficulty making and keeping friends. I can’t help but feel disappointed when everybody my age goes out with friends or has a big party. It makes me feel like I'm not worth getting to know," Josie said. "To me, birthdays should always be a big deal, no matter if you're one or eight or 15 or 37, 62 or 103! Birthdays are a marker of your life; you've made it another year, a little older, a little wiser."

But Saturday, she enjoyed the presence (and presents!) of many people around her age with with a party at Oaks Amusement Park. Lord of the Rings costumes optional - but preferred by Josie.

"My mom and my grandparents... strived really hard over the years to make my birthday special, but the friend aspect was not so much. So it was mostly just my family," Josie said.

Laura Wolfenson, who's with the organization "RISE" and works with Josie on life-skills, helped make the party happen. The word got out about her party, and a group of friends and strangers arrived to celebrate - and make up for the party Josie never had.

"I've never seen her smile as big as she is now, part of the reason I get teary eyed," said Wolfenson. "Lots of love, lots of people... it's really amazing."

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