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

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

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A person experiencing homelessness in downtown Nanaimo last week. (News Bulletin photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Change approach to combatting homelessness

Letter writers express frustration with status quo

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Nanaimo area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo councillors like new sustainable buying policy

Finance and audit committee recommends council approve new procurement policy

Action at the Nanaimo Curling Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo sports organizations qualify for COVID-19 relief funding

Province announces support for curling, rowing, gymastics, softball, rugby, squash, football clubs

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Concerned Island school bus driver says people still pass while red lights flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

Most Read