When COVID-19 cancelled plans for Tayven Cadieux’s ninth birthday, his community rallied in a way he will never forget.
“I was outside playing and all of a sudden a couple of cars came by and people started shouting ‘Happy Birthday,’” said Tayven, a soft-spoken Grade 3 student at Sir John Moore School in Corunna.
“Then there were more and more. I felt special that I got my own parade.”
A convoy of 40 trucks and cars decorated for a birthday showered him with cards and posters as they passed. Family and friends joined in, as did some total strangers.
Tayven’s mom Adrienne came up with the surprise parade idea after the hockey tournament he was to attend on his birthday was cancelled by the pandemic.
Using social media, she invited friends and family to drive by the Brentwood Crescent home at 4:30 p.m. when Tayven was outside playing catch with his dad, Chris, and 10-year-old sister Ayla.
“It just skyrocketed,” said Chris. “People said it was a great feel-good idea.”
Three fire trucks from Corunna and Shell Canada joined the parade with sirens blaring.
“We were just blown away,” said Chris.
Three days later, Tayven had a chance to pay it forward by decorating his dad’s vehicle and joining another parade for another student.
Several more birthday parades are planned in Corunna thanks to Helen Smith’s Facebook page, “Paddock Green.”
Smith and co-administrator Caitlyn Marinaro have transformed what was a community information resource page into a way to keep children active during the isolation period.
Not only are birthdays celebrated and parades organized, craft projects are posted for Corunna kids of all ages, who are encouraged to display their artwork for what’s being called a neighbourhood “Window Walk.”
“I’m a stay-at-home mom and I work from home, so I’m used to being with my two boys,” said Smith, who has a two and four year old.
“But it’s hard not having anywhere to go. Yes, they are going a little crazy.”
She uses the Paddock Green Facebook page to post a new theme every three days for the Window Walk art.
Themes range from smiley faces to animals and encouraging words. It’s a two-fold project: Kids love doing artwork, then go for walks to search for decorated windows in the community.
“We have hundreds participating,” said Smith.
In some neighbourhoods, almost every house is decorated. And it’s not just kids having fun. Parents and grandparents are doing the Neighbourhood Window Walk too.
Children across Sarnia-Lambton are also encouraged to keep busy by making cards to thank front-line healthcare workers.
Carly Cox, co-ordinator at the Physician Recruitment Taskforce of Sarnia-Lambton, initiated the idea. Children make the cards, take photos of their work or scan them, and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or the taskforce Facebook page.
“Our ultimate goal is to share them on TVs at medical clinics around town and make a slideshow of them for our physicians and health-care teams,” said Cox.
“We all feel a bit helpless right now, and this is a way we can help by sending messages to the people working so hard to keep our community health.”