A drive-by birthday wasn’t what Melina Dawson had in mind for her son Liam’s fifth birthday, but that’s exactly what it became as the family improvised to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
On Tuesday afternoon, some 35 well-wishers drove past the family’s Elmira home as Liam sat in a lawn chair, enjoying the birthday greetings and some swag dropped off by friends and community members alike.
“He got quite a few gifts given to him. People we didn’t even know were throwing gifts on the lawn,” said Dawson.
The novel festivities came together quickly after social-distancing rules forced the family to cancel the traditional birthday party planned for Sunday. Dawson had heard of a similar event from a cousin in Alberta, and quickly put together an online appeal for people to drive by to honk and wave between 2 and 2:30 p.m. on March 24, Liam’s big day.
Beyond friends and family, there was a response from the wider community, including an offer from EDSS drama teacher DJ Carroll to perform a magic show on the driveway.
“It exceeded my expectations by far,” said Dawson. “That’s something that could only happen in a small community like Elmira.”
Liam, who had been disappointed when his friends were unable to gather for a party Sunday, wasn’t quite sure what was going on during Tuesday’s impromptu celebration. And he was still hoping his friends would be able to come over.
The measures put in place for the COVID-19 outbreak are difficult to describe to a five-year-old.
“You do your best to explain, but he really doesn’t understand,” she said.
In the end, however, Liam was happy with the attention he received.
“He was just like ‘mommy, so many are just coming to see me today.’”
One of those who saw the online posting was the mother of Kitchener Rangers defenceman Donovan Sebrango, who stopped by to offer birthday greetings and leave a hockey stick for Liam.
“That was pretty cool,” said Dawson.
While the birthday event turned out in the end, it’s not something she’s eager to repeat.
“As great as it turned out, you don’t want that going forward,” she laughed.