16000 cards for woman? Winnie Blagden was beaming from ear to ear when she arrived at her surprise 100th birthday bash at the Town Hall.
The Sheffield widow shot to worldwide fame after an appeal for birthday cards started by BBC Radio Sheffield made headlines around the globe.
The radio station has been inundated with cards and gifts for Winnie, who lives alone and has few remaining friends, after a Facebook appeal was seen by more than six million people.
The appeal for the 99-year-old started after bosses at Serenta HomeCare, which helps Winnie live independently in Sheffield, wanted to make her birthday extra special.
Winnie was thought she was going for lunch at Marks and Spencer when she was whisked into the Town Hall for tea in the Lord Mayor’s parlour.
Her surprise party had to be delayed for a few minutes when an unexpected fire alarm forced the building to be evacuated.
Once it got underway, guests were treated to champagne and cakes, and entertainment from The Vernon Sisters and young dancers from Razzamataz Theatre Schools, based at Norton.
Winnie said: “I can’t understand all the fuss. I haven’t done anything special, not like all those women you see doing big, marvellous things.
“I have just got on with things day to day and got to 100. I never imagined anything like this.
“I just thought I was coming in with Sue and Darren for a photograph and from then it has just gone on and on.
“I want to thank everyone who sent me a card – thank you it’s been unbelievable.”
Winnie was presented with a newspaper from the day of her birth – May 31, 1915, and an engraved Sheffield Steel letter opener.
Sue Pinder, co-owner of Serenta HomeCare, said: “What people don’t realise is that just sending one card has made her feel so special.
“She has gone from being in her house and having carers and a few friends to this. It’s a whole new world for her.”
Sue’s son Darren added: “It has been brilliant, absolutely amazing.
“It’s really lovely that so many people can offer their time and services to do something like this.”
BBC Radio Sheffield reporter Kat Harbourne said cards and gifts had come from as far afield as Australia, Dubai and Singapore – as well as a CD of messages from Taiwan.
She said: “There has just been so much joy and emotion. It is a lovely thing to bring so many people together.
“For someone like Winnie, who was born and has lived all her life in Sheffield, just to show her that there is love and care for her is unbelievable.”
A team of volunteers will now help open the thousands of birthday cards.
The radio station is searching a public place to display all the cards and messages.