09/02/2015 13:14 EDT | Updated 09/02/2016 01:12 EDT

Kristian Hayes receives more than 3,500 letters for his birthday

Snail mail is alive in well in a small Nova Scotia town after thousands of letters poured in for a young boy with autism.

​Kaitlyn Hayes started a Facebook campaign last month, asking people to send her brother Kristian, who has autism, letters.

The family said they thought they might get 50 letters. The pile now totals more than 3,500.

"Never in a million years did I expect to get so many letters," said Kaitlyn, 12.

They surprised Kristian with the load on his 12th birthday — today, Sept. 2.

"It's a dream come true," Kristian said at the big reveal. "Thank you everybody."

The family received letters from around the world, from Australia to the Netherlands and the United States.

"Oh my goodness. This has surpassed all of our expectations," Heidi Hayes, the mother of Kaitlyn and Kristian, said. "It's so amazing to have so much support from all over the world ... It just makes you see you are not alone."

Hayes says her son's love of mail and stamps started when he was five. People on the autism spectrum can become fixated on something they love or feel passionate about, she said.

"Everyday he asks if he could get mail and stamps from the post office and most of the time it's no so it's good he gets them now," ​Kaitlyn said.

Hayes says people even sent Kristian their old stamp collections. 

"It's been like Christmas for us," she said.

"I'm just so happy," Kristian. "Can I do it next year?"