Island community’s first responders turn up the sirens for birthday parades during COVID-19

Gold River first responders from the fire department, ambulance services and RCPM come together to celebrate birthdays of people stuck at home due to the pandemic

The sound of sirens wail every Wednesday evening in Gold River and it’s something residents look forward to eagerly.

For the past couple of weeks, fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and residents with decorated cars have driven around the community to celebrate birthdays.

First responders turned the otherwise grim sound of sirens to that of excitement as they passed outside the houses of birthday girls and boys, cheering them up.

The birthday parades started out when fire chief Lisa Illes, along with Donna Schneider from the ambulance station and Kim Rutherford from the RCMP, planned a creative way to celebrate birthdays for children in the community.

These birthday parades began towards the end of March in Gold River after the community made an announcement on social media on behalf of the first responders.

Thereafter, residents began to notify the team of first responders about upcoming birthdays every week, prior to the day of the parade.

Illes and Schneider said that they put together the parade to spread happiness and hope in the community where social interactions have been limited since the pandemic began.

“A lot of little kids were not able to celebrate their birthdays as no one can get together under these circumstances,” said Illes who also prepared and brought along goodie bags for the birthday kids.

The children saw their friends shouting and waving out from cars and their reactions were priceless, said the fire chief.

Illes also said that the experience has been “very rewarding” for all the first responders who partook in the parade, especially when they saw the children with big grins on their faces.

Although, initially, the parade was meant only for children under 12, they eventually included older generations who had their birthdays coming up. The list also expanded to include anniversaries of people in the community.

When they started the parade a month ago, a dozen residents joined in with their cars. Now the number has increased to with more community members joining the parade. Yesterday, the parade consisted of 30 vehicles.

“More people turned up to celebrate these birthdays as a community,” said Schneider.

The sound of sirens can cause anxiety for a lot of people, which is why the parade sounds the sirens only for a very brief period outside homes, said Schneider.

Gold River residents whose birthdays were celebrated through the parade took to Facebook to thank the first responders. Some of the messages they left as comments expressed how overwhelmed and grateful they were for these parades, especially since they were away from family and friends at this time.

Dottie Savey, a resident whose birthday was celebrated as part of the parade said, “It brightened my spirit.”

With none of Savey’s seven children present for her birthday and with a couple of deaths in her family recently, she was “depressed.”

When the parade stopped outside her house and called out her name, she cried tears of joy.

“My husband held me as they drove by,” said Savey for whom the event was very emotional as a lot of community members came out to make her feel special and express their support.

“We have a wonderful community,” Savey said,

READ ALSO: Gold River mail flight connects remote west coast communities with supplies

READ ALSO: Young women from Gold River and Tahsis get exposure to RCMP tools and techniques

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