SHOREWOOD, IL — Carl Slick IV turned 10 on March 31. The original plan was a spring break trip to include all of his favorites — Looney Tunes and rollercoasters.
“We had planned a trip to go to California for his birthday," said his mother Faith Slick. “He was super excited to go to Six Flags.”
The trip had a dual purpose — visit Six Flags Magic Mountain and spend time with family that lives in Northern California.
“Obviously with all of the things going on with COVID, we canceled the trip,” Slick said.
The trip had been planned for March 24 to March 31 to coincide with the spring break for his school, Troy Hofer in Shorewood. The family decided on March 6 that the original planned dates for the trip were not going to work.
Carl said he was disappointed because he was so looking forward to going to Magic Mountain. A coaster enthusiast, his favorite at Six Flags Great America is X Flight, and he was most excited about riding West Coast Racers.
He didn't really know what to expect for a birthday while coronavirus makes it necessary to stay home. Neither did his mom, at least not for another week. The Slick family in California suggested that Faith get in touch with Carl's classmates and have them create posters for his birthday. That was the seed that grew into 25 posters, a bunch of Peeps in the yard and a parade of friends, family and the Troy Fire Department past his house on March 31.
“He had a birthday parade," Slick said. “(We) had a photographer come over to take pictures.”
Faith Slick contacted Lena Watley Jumper, who has been coordinating birthday parades for local area families since the stay-at-home order began. She does so through a Facebook page "Covid-19 Birthday Quarantine Parades."
“It just took off far, far beyond what I ever would have imagined,” Watley Jumper said. “I’ve got parades booked through May 21.”
Her Facebook group has grown so much that she needed to cut it off at 700 members. She has very specific rules for her parades.
“Safety comes first,” she said. “We do not let the parents congregate because that is not socially responsible now.”
No one in the parade hangs out windows and all driving laws are observed. Watley Jumper works with the local fire and safety departments—so Carl's birthday parade featured fire trucks from Troy Fire Protection District and police vehicles from the Will County Sheriff’s Office.
While Slick coordinated the parade with Jumper, she also reached out to her family photographer Michelle Mereness, owner of Red Photography by Michelle to capture Carl's reaction to his birthday surprise.
On March 31, Slick woke at 5 a.m. because she had another surprise up her sleeve — she had hired professional chalk artist The Creative Mommy to create a mural on their driveway.
The artwork included two of Carl's favorite things: Looney Tunes characters and roller coasters. And the yard was filled with another favorite: yellow Peeps.
“We had made him 10 Easter Peeps to put in the yard and it says Happy Birthday. He was quite surprised," she said.
Carl is an only child. He’s in fourth grade and likes to play outside, play video games and read. In fact, he is eagerly awaiting the next book in the Wings of Fire series that does not come out until September.
What he loves most of all, though, is roller coasters, and he's eager to get back on the tracks.
“I want to go ride some rides again,” he said.
He also said that if Covid-19 were a physical thing, he would smash it.
The Slick family has tentatively rescheduled their trip for the end of May, but they know they might have to adjust those plans, too. It might have spoiled their plans in the short term, but Slick's mission for Carl's makeshift birthday celebration didn't disappoint.
“At the end he was like, 'oh my gosh, I can’t believe that happened,'” Faith Slick said. “At the end of the day, he said 'That was my favorite birthday ever, Mom, thanks so much.'”