Under the Christmas tree was everything 9-year-old Dalton Dingus had hoped for -- an iPad and an iPhone, a big red toolbox filled with real tools just like his grandpa's, and a stack of Christmas cards nearly as tall he, each with the same wish: that he live to break a Guinness record, and for a long, long time after that.
For a month now, cards by the hundreds of thousands have come from all over the world -- well wishes and Christmas greetings from cities and countries the of which the Kentucky boy never heard before.
The cards have come from Germany and Ukraine, from South Carolina and South Korea. They're written in languages Dalton cannot read, but they all deliver the same message, a wish that the little boy could set a Guinness record for receiving most Christmas cards before he succumbs to a disease that has already made it virtually impossible for him to breathe.
As far as his mother, Jessica Dingus, is concerned, "It's a Christmas miracle."
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.
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, Ky., carrying some cards. So did a unit of Kentucky State Troopers and the star of Animal Planet's Call of the Wildman.
By Wednesday, his mother estimated the boy had received 504,269 cards.
On Christmas Eve alone, the postal service delivered 30,000 individual letters, plus 1,972 packages, some of which were filled with cards and 55 express packages, said David Walton, a spokesman for the US Postal Service. UPS and FedEx delivered hundreds more.
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 Dingus told ABCNews.com
Dalton takes 18 different medicines every day, including "lots of pills and antibiotics," his mother said.
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.
For weeks since the cards started coming, Jessica Dingus said, Dalton's health has improved.
"He's doing pretty good now," she said. "It's just been the best Christmas ever.
"He's excited for the first time in a long time," she said. "He's smiling more. He's laughing more, he's beginning to become how he was two years ago.
"I think just knowing people really do care for him, that the cards let him know people love him, it has all helped," she said.
The cards can longer fit in Dalton's home. The letter carrier can't fit them all in her truck anymore, and a local television reporter has taken to filling a trailer to bring all the cards to Dalton's grandfather's church.
There, at the Bethlehem to Cavalry Apostolic Church, dozens of volunteers, 50 of them on Christmas Eve alone, sorted the mail fire-brigade style, forming lines and handing off the letters to empty the trailer.
The volunteers count the cards and open and read each of them, flagging special ones to be brought to Dalton for him to read.
"We're looking for those special cards we think Dalton would like to read. One little girl said she wished he was her boyfriend," said Debra Williams, a volunteer at the church.
"The big majority of the town has sent cards or is helping out. Everyone just wants to do what we can. We're all just praying and hoping," she said.
Despite some reports that Dalton 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.
Jessica Dingus told ABCNews.com that she has since registered Dalton in the hopes the record keepers will open a category for him.
There are some reports that Dalton has only until Dec. 31 to break the record, but Panas said that was not true.
To send Dalton a Christmas card, address it to: Dalton Dingus HC 62 Box 1249 Salyersville, KY 41465.
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