'It’s that extra bit of love, where they didn't have to, but they did because they could. Everyone needs a bit more of that.'
When Chloe Sexton and her then-7-year-old sister Charlotte lost their mother to brain cancer on April 12 this year, Chloe immediately stepped up to be a parent for her young sibling. "We thought May would be the worst month," she told TODAY Parents. "It's Brain Cancer Awareness Month, it was my mom's birthday, it was my baby's first birthday, and May has always been a special month in our family. We really thought that would be the worst." However, it was July that posed an emotional challenge for the sisters as it was Charlotte's first birthday without their mother, Jennifer.
Hoping to put a positive spin on the day, Chloe—who has always enjoyed planning birthday parties—wanted to do something special for her younger sister. Not only would it be Charlotte's first birthday without her mother, but it would also be her first-ever party. "My mom was generally pretty sick and tired and had done radiation and chemo five and six times each," Chloe explained. "There just wasn’t a lot of room for her to party plan." However, as she counted down the days till Charlotte's eighth birthday party, Sexton was devastated that only one family had returned an RSVP.
@chloebluffcakes The piece of Jenny Wren she left behind for me ♥️🕊 I love you Charlotte #sister #mom #grief ♬ glimpse of us x pluto projector - sam
"It's tough to be a kid with a birthday in the summer," Chloe said, explaining that Charlotte transferred schools mid-year after their mom's passing. "It wasn’t that kids couldn't come, it's that they didn't say anything at all." Utterly devastated and overwhelmed by the poor response to her invites, Chloe took to her TikTok to talk about the situation. "My little sister turns 8 tomorrow," she said through tears in the video posted to the official account of her cookie company, Bluff Cakes. "Her birthday party is going to be this weekend. Our mom died of brain cancer 83 days ago (and) one child from her class RSVP'd. I haven't even told her that."
@chloebluffcakes Just go to the birthday party youre invited to 🥺 #birthday #grief #kids ♬ original sound - Chloe
Chloe had no idea what was going to happen next. "I was just sad. My TikTok has always been a place where I keep things very transparent," she explained. "It's a new age of social media to give your brand and your brand’s journey a personality and let people get this very transparent view of your struggles. They want to see what it’s taken to get to where you are and there’s no way to do that unless I show them what I'm up against to make this company go around." Almost immediately after posting the video, Chloe began receiving messages from people around the world asking how they could help.
"I had a family from Australia face-timing me asking what Charlotte liked and what they could send her," Chloe said, adding that she told everyone who asked to simply send a card for Charlotte to read. "My P.O. box has been packed to the brim every single day. I cannot get to it fast enough." However, the cards were only a preview of the epic celebration that would be Charlotte's big day. "On the day of the party, kids just kind of showed up. Parents I had talked to just kept filing into my house and I was like, 'Welcome!'" she said. "We had our garage and yard full of people. It was a packed house."
Chloe explained that although she and her husband had originally planned for the kids to play outside, the surprise that showed up 20 minutes into the party, changed everything. "Gracie the pony arrived with her owner Libby," Chloe said of the 22-year-old horse who made the trip from Oxford, Mississippi. "She had pom-poms in her hair and glitter, and she just popped right out of the back of a trailer. Gracie gave everyone rides and they could feed her treats." That wasn't the end of the surprises though. The Mid-South Jeep Group had privately orchestrated a drive-by of more than thirty Jeeps in a Facebook group unbeknown to the family. "They were handing out cash and throwing rubber duckies into the yard and had decorated their cars and were blasting happy birthday songs," Chloe said. "They created this whole thing I never even saw from a Facebook group. She even got a personalized Jeep of her own."
Charlotte had one last surprise before the party ended, that none of her guests would forget any time soon: a visit from reptiles. "They played with massive pythons and Charlotte let them wrap it around her neck," Chloe explained, adding it was handled by trained animal professionals. "Snakes, smaller lizards... there must have been a dozen of them. All the kids learned about these animals and what they eat." By the end of the party, Charlotte "could not stop talking about" her day and wanted to keep reliving all the magical moments, her loving sister revealed.
@chloebluffcakes Reply to @chloebluffcakes words can hardly cover how I feel ♥️ thank you. #birthday #grief #parenting ♬ Paper Birds (3 min) - Jordan Halpern Schwartz
The incredible response to her video "changed her life," said Chloe. "It saved something in me that I was giving up on which is that nobody really sees you on social media. They think they see you, they like your video, but do they ever really see you and care or is it just pretty sentiments?" she explained, adding that seeing action behind empathy felt very powerful. "It’s that extra bit of love, where they didn't have to, but they did because they could. Everyone needs a bit more of that."