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Police, firefighters brighten birthdays with mini-parades

  • The Greenfield Police and Fire departments drive by a Federal Street address with lights flashing and sirens blaring to help celebrate a birthday on Thursday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Greenfield Police and Fire departments drive by a Federal Street address with lights flashing and sirens blaring to help celebrate a birthday on Thursday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Greenfield Police and Fire departments drive by a Federal Street address with lights flashing and sirens blaring to help celebrate a birthday on Thursday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/5/2020 4:37:10 PM

Celebrating a birthday during a global pandemic can be tricky.

Gift-shoppers are limited mostly to overburdened online retailers, social-distancing requirements put a damper on hopes for a shindig, and dining out for a birthday bash is out of the question. But police and fire departments have been doing their part to ensure residents have a happy birthday while staying hunkered down.

Birthday parades are all the rage in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, as police and fire personnel join friends and family in a procession past someone’s home to pay them well-wishes.

For example, the Orange Police and Fire departments rolled past the house of young Lyndzee after the girl’s mother contacted the police station to request a shout-out for her daughter, who was down in the dumps about being stuck at home during her birthday last month. In a video posted to the Police Department’s Facebook page, Lyndzee is seen with a blue basketball in hand waving to a passing police cruiser when a message comes through the loudspeaker.

“Happy birthday from the Orange Police Department and the Orange Fire Department. Happy birthday,” the voice says as Lyndzee looks to her mother in utter disbelief. The cruiser is followed by an Orange firetruck, which honked its horn and roared its siren, and another cruiser.

“How cool is that?” her mother asks.

“So cool,” Lyndzee replies with glee as she again waves to the vehicles.

Bernardston Fire Chief Peter Shedd said his department had a birthday parade April 18 for the young son of firefighter Doug Depault. One of his crew members saw a parade on Facebook and posted that the Bernardston Fire Department would be happy to oblige a birthday request.

Shedd said the parades provide a break from the monotony of having to stay home and serve as a morale booster for his firefighters and the community.

Northfield resident Jennifer Selivanoff said her daughters’ grandmother, Pat Thompson Hastings, organized a surprise parade for the girls on April 19. Selivanoff’s daughter Mercedes turned 12 in mid-March, just as social distancing was becoming a requirement, and Abbigail turned 6 on April 18. She told her daughters they were going fishing, as they regularly do, and she persuaded them to walk down a dirt road to the Riverview Picnic Area, where three police cruisers, at least three firetrucks and 14 regular vehicles drove around a cul-de-sac honking horns and blaring sirens to wish the youngsters each a happy birthday. Someone in one of the vehicles handed the girls balloons.

“It was exciting because everything’s been so blah,” Selivanoff said. “It was a gorgeous day.”

Northfield Fire Chief Floyd “Skip” Dunnell III was part of the three-minute parade and said it brought a little sunshine to the young girls.

“We were happy to do it,” he said. “The kids loved it and the parents appreciated it.”

The Deerfield Police Department recently carried out a parade to celebrate the 10th birthday of a girl named Eliza.

Athol Police Chief Craig Lundgren said his department had its first birthday parade about three weeks ago and has since been averaging four to eight a week. He said they are wonderful community events during a challenging and unprecedented time.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “The kids, they absolutely love it. And that makes us happy.

“It can ease the pain a little bit for children that are stuck in their homes and can’t have friends over,” Lundgren said. “It’s working out really well.”

The chief said one of his officers heard about the parades and then learned of a child with a birthday coming up.

“And then it kind of took off from there,” Lundgren said. “I think (the officers) get a big kick out of it.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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