Doc Pilotte’s son Thomas was overwhelmed with excitement when he saw the cars rolling down the street.
“He was having trouble dealing with his quarantine birthday plans and this made his day,” Pilotte said. “We are so appreciative of how thoughtful our neighbors were … we are a very close neighborhood and always seem to rally together.”
Thomas’ birthday parade was organized largely in part by Mandy Leach Young, who stumbled upon a video on Facebook of a birthday parade in a different state.
“With school closed and children unable to have parties due to the quarantine, their neighborhood organized drive-by parades to help children celebrate their special day,” Young said. “The birthday boy was ecstatic that he got his own birthday parade, and it made me wonder if there were children in our own neighborhood who may appreciate a drive by parade of their own.”
Young, who lives in Luling’s Willowdale Country Club, and Breanne Hudson posted to a few neighborhood Facebook pages to see if anyone would be interested in the parade idea. Families immediately started responding.
So far, six children’s birthdays have been celebrated in four different parades within the neighborhood.
Young said parade riders met in a parking lot before caravanning out to the birthday child’s house. To ensure the safety of everyone and keeping social distancing at the forefront of everyone’s minds, participants were asked to stay in their vehicle before the parade.
Some parade riders decorated their cars with balloons, while others make homemade signs. Around 20 cars have participated in each parade.
“As we passed by the birthday child’s house, we honked, waved signs and shouted our birthday wishes,” Young said. “The birthday child initially looked a little shocked and confused, but it didn’t take them long to figure out that this long line of cars was there just for them … we saw enormous smiles.”
Andi Knox’s triplets – Kallen Emma and Ava – were three children one of the birthday parades celebrated. Knox said the parade was the highlight of their day.
Melissa Brezinsky agreed. She said her daughter Jessica was so surprised and excited to see a huge parade just for her.
“Our community really came together in this trying time,” Brezinsky said, “and we will never forget.”
Young said she hopes her own children – Max, Ben and Lucy – learn some important life lessons through the process of organizing the parades.
“I think in a busy world is it easy to forget how small unexpected gestures can mean so much to those around us,” Young said. “I want my children to realize it’s important to take care of those around you, and this was an easy way for them to participate in caring for those in our community.”
Christina Verrette and her family are new to the neighborhood, and her son Ethan had a parade to celebrate his birthday.
“It literally made my heart smile,” Verrette said. “I loved seeing his reaction and it was amazing that people we didn’t even really know were putting forth the effort to show up and make our boy’s day as special as they could.”
Verrette said the parade gave her a renewed sense of hope in humanity and community.
“His reaction both during and afterward was something we will never forget … absolutely priceless,” she said. “It was a truly priceless moment and memory he will always have – of the year he had his very own birthday parade.”
Verrette said the parade is the part of this year she hopes Ethan always remembers, “not that there was a scary virus, or that we were all stuck at home, or that his birthday and Easter family gatherings were canceled … but that he had friends and neighbors show up to support him and that he was safe, loved and celebrated no matter what.”
Young said she would plan more parades if needed, and that she was overwhelmed with how many people jumped on board to make the parades happen.
“I just want to thank everyone who participated,” she said. “It’s one thing to have an idea, but it’s a whole other thing when people come on board and make it happen.”