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Community 'Steps Up' At Karate Student's Birthday Bash

By Karen Morfitt

LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) - Year after year, 11 year-old Tabitha Iness's birthday has come and gone with little to no party.

Tabitha Iness
Tabitha Iness (credit: CBS)

This year was different.

"It was the most awesome birthday party ever," she told CBS4.

At 5 years old Tabitha was diagnosed with high functioning autism. Her mom Samantha Iness said it has made socializing and making friends a challenge.

"For the last three years nobody has wanted to come to her birthday party. We have invited many different children and for some reason or another, I'm not really sure the reason why, but no one has come to her party," she said.

This year Samantha thought bringing a cake to share after karate class would be the best way to avoid disappointment.

The staff at Ripple Effect Martial Arts in Longmont jumped at the opportunity to help.

"We wanted to make sure that she had a fun and special birthday. Something that she could really remember," said Andrew Wagoner, one of Tabitha's instructors.

Samantha shared that story with Longmont police officer Mark Stewart, who she met through church.

"I couldn't guarantee anything, but I know the people I work with and had a pretty good feeling we could pull this off," Stewart said.

Knowing Tabitha has always wanted to be a cop herself, Stewart sent an email to everyone in the Longmont Police Department. He included Tabitha's story, the time of the party and the location of the karate studio.

Tabitha Iness (3)
(credit: CBS)

On March 5, detectives, patrol officers and the chief showed up.

"I know the kind of heart and the type of people that work at Longmont," he said. "I didn't have any doubt that people would step up."

The night had everything, starting with karate class being all about Tabitha.

"She got birthday high fives from the whole class. They sang 'Happy Birthday,'" Samantha said.

Tabitha Iness (2)
(credit: CBS)

Tabitha got to cut her cop-themed cake with a sword. And she broke a board with her fist. That board is now a life-long keepsake.

"(It has) all of the police signatures and the karate people who signed it," Tabitha said.

Tabitha Iness (4)
(credit: CBS)

The best gift of the night was that Tabitha made more friends than she could ever imagine.

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"That was really my goal. It was about her, not us," Stewart said.

Tabitha Iness (1)
(credit: CBS)

"It turned into an amazing party," Samantha said.

Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.

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