TORONTO -- Kade Foster received a phone call at his home in Massey Drive, Newfoundland on Monday that he will not soon forget. At the other end of the line was Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares.
"It was awesome. I was so surprised, I couldn't believe it," the 11-year-old said while watching the Maple Leafs morning skate on Saturday.
Tavares was calling to wish Kade a happy birthday and to tell him that the Maple Leafs were organizing a trip for him and his family to visit Toronto and watch their game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SNO, SNW, SNP, NBCSP, NHL.TV).
"It's hard to explain but it involved very wide eyes, an open mouth and hands over his face," Kade's dad, Jason, said about Tavares' phone call. "I've never seen that reaction out of him before actually, he was just taken aback."
The Maple Leafs became aware of Kade after his dad took to Twitter, asking Tavares and teammate Mitchell Marner to wish his son a happy birthday after none of the guests invited to his party showed up. The post was retweeted over 25,000 times and generated over 50, 000 responses.
"His birthday was officially on Monday so I called him on Monday to wish him a happy birthday and we kind of organized a plan to bring him," Tavares said. "It was good to just call and say 'happy birthday' and let him know what kind of a big surprise was coming. We wanted to try to do something to give him something to celebrate and be happy about."
Kade, along with his dad, mom, Sarah, and sister, Emily, were flown in from Newfoundland to attend the morning skate and sit in on Toronto's pregame meeting with the whole team.
"I've had so much fun so far, it was so cool in the dressing room and being in their pregame meeting," Kade said.
Marner said he hoped Kade enjoyed the experience.
"He's pretty quiet, I think he was a little shocked but I thought he had a good time in here, it seemed like he did," Marner said. "We gave him a gift and I hope he's going to like that stuff too. I think from our eyes, it looked like he had a lot of fun."
Kade's dad said he tried to get tickets when the Maple Leafs held training camp in St. John's, Newfoundland, a seven-hour drive from their home, but they sold out. He said the experience so far has been incredible.
"From the start when it took off and the Leafs made the offer to Kade to come up and see a game, to be honest it's been overwhelming," Jason said. "The experience has been surreal, we've been treated like gold so far."
Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said it was a no-brainer to do something for Kade and his family when they became aware of the situation.
"Why wouldn't you?" Babcock said. "When you have a chance to make someone's life better, you should. When you reach out and help anybody, it's just not good for them; it's good for your soul too."