HARBERT — Local fire departments and emergency services are making birthdays special in this time of social distancing.
Chikaming Township Fire Chief Mike Davidson said the department recently started offering to hold parades of fire and other emergency vehicles, with their sirens sounding and lights flashing, for the special day.
Davidson said the fire department is trying to bring a little joy to the lives of those locked down during the coronavirus pandemic.
The parades, held after 5 p.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends during the COVID-19 lockdown, can be scheduled by sending a request to the Chikaming Fire Department (CTFD) on its Facebook page via Facebook Messenger, or by calling (269) 469-6362.
The department’s parade message concludes: “We do our best to accommodate all requests but please remember that keeping our community safe is our top priority.”
On Friday evening, April 17, the parade route was in Harbert where Chikaming police and fire vehicles were joined by a long line of cars and trucks filled with well-wishers who came to say Happy Birthday to 3-year-old Blake and her mom, Lindsey Troxell (they share an April 17 birthday). Also enjoying the show were Blake’s 6-year-old brother, Trace, and their dad, Rocky.
“I thought it was great,” Lindsey said, noting that her daughter’s in-person birthday party had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus situation.
“I needed to find a way to make it special, and then I saw Chikaming had posted they were doing (the parades). I reached out to see if they would and they happily obliged. This was fantastic!”
Lindsey (SP) noted that her husband’s parents (Tom and Marde Troxell) also were both born on April 17 (and they were in one of the cars that paraded past).
The 10th birthday of Lucy Stahlschmidt was celebrated Saturday, April 18, in Union Pier as fire and rescue trucks from Chikaming and New Buffalo made the scene. Lucy and her sisters (Sylvia and Soni) and her parents (Dan and Amanda) watched and waved from the front porch of their house.
Lucy said she thought the parade (a surprise from her grandmother, Debra Cronin) was “crazy and unbelievable.”
The Birthday Parades aren’t just for kids.
On Sunday, April 19, emergency vehicles from Chikaming and Three Oaks along with a line of well-wishers on wheels passed by the rural Three Oaks home of Three Oaks Elementary Principal Heidi Clark to celebrate her 49th.
It was a surprise parade, with her husband Brad calling a family meeting about five minutes before the fire trucks came into view.
“I was very surprised,” Heidi said.
The procession included vehicles filled with what Clark described as “all of our staff and some of the students.”
Gifts, cards, balloons and even a cake were presented from some of the passing motorists.
“CeCe” (a corgi-poo that will eventually serve as a therapy dog at the school) also was on hand.
Clark later said Cori McLaughlin, a secretary at Three Oaks Elementary, requested the birthday parade.
The first Chikaming Fire Department birthday parade took place Thursday, April 16, as fire trucks from three fire departments (also Three Oaks and New Buffalo) along with other emergency vehicles rolled past Lakewood Estates to wish Alaina Shoemaker a happy 12th Birthday.
During the April 20 New Buffalo Township Board meeting, Township Fire Chief Jamie Flick said his department has conducted birthday parades both in its own and with Chikaming, including an April 20 procession for the granddaughter of former Chief Ed Lijewski.
Katlin Miller, who videotaped the parades for the Chikaming Fire Deprtment (her husband, Brad, is a firefighter), said another agency that has been participating is HART of Berrien County, a service that bring a green-and-white ambulance to challenging situations such as structure fires and training sessions to provide support such as coffee, water and snacks for first-responders.
“They work 100-percent on donations. It’s a really cool program,” she said.