But after only one person responded to their party invitations, strangers stepped in to show their support.
Chloe Sexton, 28, and Charlotte Sexton, 8, lost their mother, Jennifer, on April 12 after battling brain cancer for 11 years, Chloe told CNN on Saturday.
Chloe is now Charlotte’s legal guardian.
“I sent the invites out early and I heard nothing back except from one person,” Chloe said. “It upset me that I couldn’t give her the birthday I wanted to.”
Charlotte had to transfer to a new school in the middle of the school year after losing her mother. Her new classmates and parents were aware of her mother’s death, Chloe said.
So that’s when Chloe took to TikTok to express her frustrations.
Chloe said her comments and inbox began filling up with messages of people offering to help decorate, to attend the party and asking what gift to bring for Charlotte.
“This was the first time I saw people put action behind their empathy,” Chloe said. “The overwhelming support made me feel like not just a face online, but that I mattered, and my story mattered to people.”
On July 9 Chloe was able to surprise Charlotte with guests, balloons, presents and more, thanks to the help of strangers.
Some women helped decorate the house and assemble a balloon display and another brought her horse from Oxford, Mississippi, to give the kids pony rides at the party.
Throughout the day people stopped by, even if only for 30 minutes, from all over. At one point there were about 20 kids in the house, Chloe said.
“She kept asking me ‘Is this all for me?'” Chloe said. “There was so much excitement, her eyes were so big.”
Not only was this her first birthday without her mom, but this was her first birthday party ever, Chloe said. Charlotte has never had a party like this as her mother battled cancer for most of her life.
“Charlotte did say to me ‘I think mommy would’ve loved today’ after the day was over,” Chloe said.