By Cleve Bryan

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS) — A birthday billboard along the Black Horse Pike in Atlantic City is getting a lot of attention. The man you see on it can thank his sons for the gift, which just keeps on giving.

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Credit: CBS3

Birthdays can be hard when family is far away.

Michael and his brother, Christopher Ferry, are in Florida and their dad is in Linwood, New Jersey. So, this year, they decided to enlist a little help wishing him a happy birthday.

“Thursday morning, I got a text that said ‘Happy Birthday,’ and I said, ‘Who’s this?'” Chris said. “‘Nick.’ ‘Nick who?’ ‘Oh, you don’t know me.’ ‘How do you know it’s my birthday?’ ‘I read it on a billboard.'”

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That’s Chris’ face on a billboard, with the message, ‘Wish My Dad Happy Birthday.’ That’s his cell number, and as you can imagine, his phone has been blowing up.

“Happy birthday, Chris, you raised some good kids,” one text read.

Between texts, calls and messages online, he’s received thousands of birthday wishes and even gets recognized when he goes out.

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“The waitress recognized me, she said, ‘Oh, you’re the billboard dad’ — so that’s my new handle, I’m the billboard dad,” Chris said. “I love it, it’s really cool.”

Michael says, growing up, his dad spent countless hours taking him and his brother, Chris, to hockey tournaments.

Eating out, they would tell servers it was their dad’s birthday to make a fuss. So this was a natural extension of the prank.

“Our idea behind it was to get people that know him to call him, we didn’t really think it would be thousands and thousands of people,” Michael said. “But we are taken back by it, and we’re very excited to see my dad smile because he really deserves it.”

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Clogging up his phone is an inconvenience, but overall, Chris has been blown away by the kindness of strangers.

“It’s nice that people take the time out,” Chris said. “It’s a cool story and I’m right in the middle of it, so I love it.”

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Chris’ birthday is March 16.