In November, the father of an autistic boy in Langtree, England, sent out a desperate message on Twitter.
“Reward for cup like this!” he wrote, sharing a photo of a blue sippy cup sold by the brand Tommee Tippee. “Son has severe #autism & would rather go to [the emergency room] dehydrated than use ANY other cup — color shape etc PLEASE SHARE.”
The cup, Ben's father Marc Carter wrote under his Twitter name @grumpycarer, is no longer made, and his son refused to use newer versions or any in a different color.
The message with the hashtag #cupforben not only generated viral attention around the world, it also prompted Tommee Tippee's parents company Mayborn Group Ltd., to scour its own operations globally not just in search of the cup within its stock, but for anything that would help the family.
And in China, Mayborn found the original mold in storage, still in working condition.
Mayborn is now making 500 of the polypropylene cups to ensure Ben never runs out again.
“It's a shock and a surprise,” Marc said in a video he posted just hours after hearing from Mayborn. “It's just a bit bizarre really that they've managed to do this.”
On its Tommee Tippee website, Mayborn, based in Cramlington, England, said it has a Careline team that works to help parents “desperate to find a cup or soother that their little one just can't do without. We search our cupboards, warehouses and even our own desk drawers to find exactly the right one.”
Within hours of Carter posting on Twitter, the Careline team was in action. Its social media team worked with Carter to establish its own free shipping address to collect and sort through hundreds of cups and responses he was receiving, while its staff began searching its offices and stock at sites in the U.K., U.S., France, Australia and Hong Kong.”
As possible replacement cups began to come his way, Carter would try them out, just as the family had tried other options. At one point, 40 possible new cups showed up in one day.
“Ben isn't going to suddenly accept a new cup,” he said in his video on the experience. “We know that because we've tried it.”
Ben would not just look at the cup, it had to have the right touch and smell.
A few matching cups began to show up, and then Mayborn staff found the mold in storage at a warehouse in China.
“Today we are delighted to confirm that we are able to start production on a run of the original cup,” Tommee Tippee staff said in late November, less than 10 days after the search began.
The company intends to make 500 of Ben's cups and will store them in house — sending about six per year to the family — so Carter isn't stuck figuring out where to put them himself.
It's important to have enough to last for years and years.
“Ben uses only one cup, every day, for dozens of drinks, and hygiene wise, it's not going to last for long,” Carter said.
Now that Ben has his cup, Carter is hoping to use the viral attention the family received to draw attention to other needs of people with autism and their families. A gofundme page has been set up to raise funds to produce a documentary about Ben and his cup as well as autism in general.
“There are so many people out there who have got their own Bens and their own little blue cup,” he said. “I want to do more.”