Winnie Bladgen got quite a gift for turning 100 — 16,000 of them, to precise.
The British woman lost her husband 30 years ago, had no children, and had only a few close friends. Her story made international headlines earlier in the month when her caregiver, Darren Pinder, helped let people know about Bladgen.
Pinder’s mother and a colleague called Bladgen’s favorite radio station — radio Sheffield — to talk about her upcoming birthday, and the response was overwhelming. The station started a Facebook page for her birthday and collected gifts from across the world.
Thousands of people stepped up to make her 100th birthday a success, and the BBC helped to gather the gifts that poured in.
“It will mean the world to her, she’s just a normal person. She never moans, the carers look after her, they’re her family. To think that people have taken five or ten minutes and get a card for Winnie or reply to her on Facebook is wonderful.”
This week Pinder set the plans into action.
“[On] Thursday, Winnie had a surprise party,” Blagden’s caregiver, Darren Pinder, told ABC News. “We gave her a tour and town hall had a cup of tea with the mayor. She thought we were going to take her to lunch and then she walked into a big room of people.”
The town hall celebration for Bladgen drew hundreds of people to the town hall, which featured gifts, refreshments, and 16,000 birthday cards from across the globe.
The birthday celebration was sponsored by Radio Sheffield, and many others offered their services including a local pizzeria and a musician who offered his services for free.
“We had her to go down to Radio Sheffield and meet them since she’s been listening for years,” Pinder said. “On her birthday, we had bacon sandwiches and helped her open some cards. She just can’t believe it. She’s so thankful.”
Pinder said the centenarian was overwhelmed by the celebration.
“She told me, ‘I don’t deserve all this,’ ” Pinder said. “I said, ‘Winnie, you’re a lovely person. You do deserve all of this and you lived to be 100.’ She’s just a real positive lady. She’s a kind person, you know. She’s always there to talk to and she’s been a real grandma figure.”
Bladgen didn’t just get 16,000 cards for turning 100 — she also had some very famous well-wishers. She received a congratulatory message from the Queen, and another from Brendan Coyle, her favorite actor from Downton Abbey.
[Image via Facebook]