GOLDENS BRIDGE, NY — The new norm of social distancing and ban on large-group gatherings has put all events and family celebrations on hold. But not even the coronavirus pandemic has stopped a local fire department from delivering curbside birthday wishes.
Nearly a dozen children in the northern Westchester hamlet of Golden’s Bridge, who thought their birthday would come and go without fanfare this year, got the birthday surprise of their lives two recent Saturdays, when the Golden’s Bridge Fire Department showed up outside their houses with its fire trucks — sirens screeching, horns blaring, and lights flashing, along with a birthday shout-out by name.
The department launched its surprise birthday drive-by program earlier this month for children and senior citizens in the fire district, offering curbside visits to bring cheer and help these special residents celebrate their birthdays during this unprecedented stay-at-home edict.
“This was epic! Pure joy,” Lauren Weisfelner said of the drive-by she arranged for her son, Andrew.
Weisfelner said she contacted all of her neighbors to join in the festivities, with the other families watching from their windows, helping to celebrate Andrew’s 10th birthday and waving to the firefighters as the fire trucks paraded through the street.
“The moment brought out a lot of raw emotion. All the moms in the neighborhood were texting each other while it was happening, and we were all crying. We thank the Golden’s Bridge Fire Department for making this happen for our children,” Weisfelner said.
Emotions ran high among the children as well, especially for Bruno Palermo, who was celebrating his fifth birthday.
“He proclaimed that it was his ‘best birthday ever,’ ” said mom Danielle Palermo.
For Vivian Bellows, it was a milestone birthday – her first!
Her dad John Bellows was thankful to the firefighters for making our daughter’s first birthday so special.
“Vivian loved seeing the parade of fire trucks go by while she was in her stroller and dancing along with the sirens. It was perfect,” he said.
Heather Meyer, who arranged the drive-by birthday for her 12-year-old son Wyatt, said her family was grateful for this remarkable gesture by the members of the fire department.
“It was amazing. Golden’s Bridge firefighters are my heroes! They made my son’s birthday,” Meyer said of the curbside shout-out and recognition.
“Kids really need this now," she said. "We can’t thank the firefighters enough for what they are doing for the children and the community.”
Quinn Brennan, who was celebrating his fifth birthday, wore a wide smile as the trucks paraded by, and apparently so did the rest of his family.
“This is definitely a birthday that Quinn will never forget. We all had smiles on our faces all day long,” said mom Brooke Brennan, adding, “It was so special for all of us.”
Emmie Link told her dad, Ian Link, that she couldn’t believe the firefighters came all the way to her house to wish her a happy sixth birthday.
“‘I loved it and I’m really thankful for what they did,’ is what she told me afterward,” Link said. “The GBFD made Emmie’s day. We really appreciate the fire department going above and beyond to bring joy to children during these challenging times. A huge thank you to everyone involved in making this happen, and for being there for the community no matter what,” he added.
The Golden’s Bridge Fire Department is among a growing number of community fire departments around the county, and across the state and country, that are bringing cheer to children who are missing out on birthday parties because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s emotionally uplifting for our firefighters, too, when they see the smiles and joy on the faces of the children, and parents videotaping the moment and shouting out ‘thank you’ to us. It’s really the icing on the virtual birthday cake,” said Golden’s Bridge Fire Chief James McManus.
To arrange a surprise birthday drive-by from the Golden’s Bridge Fire Department for a child or a senior citizen celebrating their birthday, call or text the district’s public relations representative Steve Mangione at 914-403-4072.