Twice a day, every day for the past three weeks, a mail truck has arrived at the home of Dalton Dingus, a 9-year-old boy from rural Kentucky with a singular Christmas wish -- to receive a record-breaking number of Christmas cards before he succumbs to the disease that has already left him virtually unable to breathe.
At first the cards came in slowly. A family friend had posted an appeal for well-wishes on Facebook. Dalton's mother would display them on the mantel and in his room beside his bed. Most came from neighbors and friends, a few from friends of friends.
But then the postmarks started changing, and the return addresses were from places Dalton had never heard of. Cards from Ireland and Italy, South Dakota and South Africa. Wishes of "Feliz Navidad" and "Joyeux Noel" from children, some younger than Dalton, who chose to write to him instead of Santa Claus.
That first post on Facebook went viral, spreading across the Internet, getting picked up by a local newspaper and other media.
Miss Kentucky showed up at Dalton's house in Salyersville, carrying some cards. So did a unit of Kentucky State Troopers and the star of Animal Planet's "Call of the Wildman."
For a while his mother, Jessica Dingus, 27, tried to stack the cards in neat piles in the living room. But now, she says, "There are too many. Once we finish reading them we put them in totes and neighbors have been storing them for us in their homes."
By Wednesday, Dalton had received about 40,000 cards, his mother said. On Thursday alone, he received more than 30,000, nearly doubling his total overnight.
As of late Friday morning, the post office said he had already received 19,500 letters and an additional 200 packages so far today. Many of the packages were filled with cards, said David Walton, a USPS spokesman for the Kentuckiana District.
A route that once took letter carrier Joy Caldwell two hours to drive now takes four, her truck heavy with cards for Dalton.
"I feel like Santa Claus," she told ABCNews.com of seeing the little boy come out to greet her truck each morning.
Dalton has stage four cystic fibrosis. In October, his mother said, "Doctors had given up on him."
"We left the hospital to come home. They gave him two to eight days to live," Jessica told ABCNews.com
Dalton takes 18 different medicines every day, "lots of pills and antibiotics," his mother says. He goes through 12 liters of oxygen a day and wears a face mask to help him breathe, making him look like a miniature fighter pilot with an interest in coloring and playing with Lego blocks.
"Dalton has been doing really well the past three weeks. He is still very weak but improving," Jessica said.
"The cards give him something to look forward to. Something to get excited about," she said. "The prayers are working."
Everyone, she says, knows what this is: "A miracle."
But prayers aren't enough for the sticklers at Guinness World Records. Despite some reports that Dingus had already broken the record for receiving the most Christmas cards, spokeswoman Jamie Panas said Guinness "currently does not monitor a category for this."
However, Guinness does have an old record on the books. As of 1992, the last official time Guinness allowed for a Christmas card category, Canadian Jarrod Booth had collected 205,120.
Guinness said it is in touch with the Dingus family and is in the process of determining if a new record category can be made.
"Every day when I get up I give Dalton and then we go through all those letters and cards. I'm just touched. We're just so blessed," Jessica said.
To send Dalton a Christmas card, address it to: Dalton Dingus HC 62 Box 1249 Salyersville, KY 41465.
- Holidays & Celebrations
- Christmas cards