Fire departments help kids celebrate birthdays

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Social distancing and gathering restrictions due to COVID-19 have made celebrating kids’ birthdays a little harder these days. But local fire departments are doing their part to help make the day special by offering driveby birthday greetings, complete with lights and sirens. Shea Coon, of Monona, received the fun surprise for his fourth birthday on April 5. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Social distancing and gathering restrictions due to COVID-19 have made celebrating kids’ birthdays a little harder these days. But local fire departments are doing their part to help make the day special by offering driveby birthday greetings, complete with lights and sirens.

So far, the Monona, Luana and Farmersburg fire departments have signed on, with immediate success.

Within moments of sharing the idea on the Monona Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page on April 4, Jeremy Schellhorn said the firefighters already had a request.

“She was like, ‘Can you come out in 10 minutes?’” he remarked. As of last Wednesday, the department had already done four birthday drivebys, and another four were scheduled.

“We actually had a family reach out to us first,” said Matt Baade, with the Luana Fire Department. “Of course we wanted to support our community.”

Setting up a birthday driveby is easy. If you’re in the Monona Fire District, message the department Facebook page or call Schellhorn at (563) 539-2903. Those in Luana can also message the Luana Fire Department Facebook page or call Baade at (563) 380-8706. Farmersburg area residents can reach out to the Farmersburg Fire and EMS page or contact any firefighter.

“We’ll make sure we get someone there,” Schellhorn said. Although he and fellow firefighter Jamie Welsh have been handling duties in Monona so far, “I guarantee there are 26 other guys who will volunteer if we can’t.”

It’s all part of being a community volunteer.

“We’re doing the best we can to help the community out with our big red trucks. Some kids don’t like the sirens, but they like the trucks and lights,” he shared. “We’ve heard from parents, and they said the kids loved it. It’s been fun.”

Other community members have even joined it. At one stop, Schellhorn said the fire truck was followed by seven or eight other vehicles, each one honking and sharing their own birthday greetings.

Baade said this activity helps firefighters connect with kids and show them that firefighters are just regular people who are helping out.

“We’re the good guys,” he said, “and we care about everyone in our fire district.”

Even when the coronavirus scare passes, Schellhorn said the birthday greeting driveby idea might stick.

“This is something we can continue to do. Down the road, when there’s not social distancing, we can stop and let them take pictures too,” he said. “Maybe this is one of those silver linings that comes out of this.”

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