Northern Ireland

A random 'slice' of birthday kindness

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Media caption'I want to buy a cake for a total stranger'

Cake and birthdays go hand in hand.

However, on her first birthday, Akeelah Rose from County Down received an extra special scrumptious treat.

Her aunt, Leah O'Brien, had placed an order for a Peppa Pig themed cake at a bakery in Banbridge.

Little did she know that when she went to collect it, another customer had paid for it and left a card for the "birthday girl".

Image copyright Leah O'Brien

It read: "In honour of what would have been my little girl's first birthday, I have chosen to pay for your birthday cake.

"I am unable to buy my daughter a cake of her own today, but I hope you enjoy this one and have a fantastic birthday.

"God bless. Hannah's daddy."

'Such a kind gesture'

Ms O'Brien told BBC News NI she was "overwhelmed".

"I couldn't believe it, I was stunned," she added.

Image copyright Leah O'Brien

"I'd never heard of anything like this happening before.

"It was such a kind gesture, especially for this person to have thought of someone else at what must be a difficult time."

Determined to find out more about Hannah, and to thank her dad, Ms O'Brien posted pictures of the cake and card on Facebook.

"I honestly wasn't sure if the family would be happy with me posting about it or not, but I really wanted to reach out to them," she told BBC News NI.

"I wasn't expecting anywhere near the response that the post received."

'In Hannah's memory'

Image copyright Brontë family
Image caption The Brontë family (from left to right, Caleb, Gareth, Hannah and Kirsty)

With thousands of people liking, sharing and commenting, it wasn't too long before Ms O'Brien uncovered the identity of Hannah's father - Gareth Brontë.

"Tuesday 10 September would've been my daughter's first birthday," he told BBC News NI.

"Unfortunately she died after eight days and I wasn't going to get the opportunity to buy her a birthday present or a birthday cake.

"But I wanted to share some kindness about in her memory.

"I walked into the bakery, asked to buy a cake and they asked if I had placed an order.

"I said: 'No, I want to pay for someone else's birthday cake' and explained the reason why."

Image copyright Brontë family
Image caption Hannah Brontë died eight days after she was born

Mr Brontë said "there were a few tears shed in the bakery" but that it just so happened there was a cake that had been ordered for a one-year-old girl.

"I had no clue who the family were, I just wanted to share a bit of good," he said.

"Some people had said my actions had restored some faith in humanity for them, but I didn't do it for that.

"I did it for Hannah."

Speaking to BBC News NI, Gareth's wife, Kirsty, said she hoped his actions would open a conversation for other parents who had lost children.

"It's nice for us to be able to talk about her and for other people to talk about Hannah too," she said.

"I hope it will help reduce stigma around grief and that parents will be able to talk about their kids the same way as they talk about the ones that are still here."

After Mr Brontë's act of kindness, Ms O'Brien felt driven to follow suit and put money towards another stranger's cake at the bakery.