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

The First Nations language pole project, underway in Port Alberni, has been stalled due to lack of funding. Artist Tim Paul can occasionally be seen working on the project behind a fence at the Maritime Discovery Centre. (JERRY FEVENS PHOTO/ Special to the News)
Port Alberni’s First Nations language pole suffers another setback

First Nations Education Foundation still looking for funding for a final push

A screenshot from the virtual all-candidates meeting on Monday, Oct. 19 hosted by the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. (SCREENSHOT)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Mid Island-Pacific Rim candidates weigh in on forestry, tourism, LNG

For the first time ever, Alberni Valley Chamber hosted a virtual all-candidates’ meeting

NIC and other schools will provide information on program pathways, partnership agreements and tips for transfer students. File photo
Vancouver Island colleges, universities host virtual tours

The tour includes representatives from North Island College

Crew members with the Western Canadian Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) deploy a containment boom from one of their workboats during a fuel spill drill in Alberni Harbour on Oct. 15, 2020. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni WCMRC team learns the spill drill

Spill response members simulates fuel spill for practice in Alberni Harbour

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants on the Island

Nanaimo RCMP say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

Most Read