First responders make birthdays a bit brighter

Richard Guerrero and his daughters, Madeleine (center) and Olivia wave from the lawn of their East Heffernan Street home May 6 at a procession of vehicles comprising a parade organized in honor of Madeleine’s eighth birthday.

BEEVILLE – For children, birthdays mean marking another year of life with a celebration inclusive of presents, balloons, games, music, cake and ice cream and, most of all, family and friends.

But the situation is quite different in these times of social distancing, where mom is not baking cupcakes for the whole class because school is taking place online. The COVID-19 emergency has prevented even private social gatherings, which means there haven’t been any backyard pool parties or games of pin the tail on the donkey or musical chairs in a while.

Such a situation could lead to disappointment for a youngster. But not in Beeville.

Chief Robert Bridge of the Beeville Police Department said the idea of birthday parades, which originated elsewhere, has been adopted by the local public safety community as a means of making boys’ and girls’ birthdays happier.

“The fire chief was contacted, apparently someone saw it on social media someplace else,” Bridge said. “I was asked if we would participate with other agencies, and we do so when we can.”

Beeville Fire Chief Bill Burris said that on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings each week, the fire department, Beeville Independent School District Police and Angel Care EMS meet in their vehicles nearby the home of the birthday child, where family members and friends line up behind them in their cars. The first responders then activate the lights and sirens on the emergency vehicles before leading a procession past the youngster’s house, where the child and their family come out to watch their personal parade.

“Sometimes we also have DPS, the sheriff’s office and the police department, when they are available,” Burris said.

The parades are performed upon the parents’ request. There is no cost or suggested donation.

“We do it out of the kindness of our hearts,” Burris said.

Mickie Ochoa, co-owner of Angel Care EMS, said the ambulance service provider has held parades on other nights of the week besides Tuesday and Wednesday. For Ochoa, who grew up in Beeville, it is a way for her to give back to a town that has given her so much.

“I feel that’s why I was placed here, for the Bee County kids,” Ochoa said. “This (quarantine) situation isn’t their fault, but they’re paying the price for what this COVID is doing.”

Little Madeleine Guerrero said she did not know what to think when she, along with her parents, Richard and Ashley, and 4-year-old sister, Olivia, heard the sirens screaming up the 700 block of East Corpus Christi Street May 6. Madeleine, who turned 8 that day, had seen parades for other children, but this one was for her.

Madeleine, dressed in her special vermilion floral print birthday dress with a gold “Happy Birthday” headband holding back her long hair joined her father, mother and sister in smiling and waving at the noisy procession. Many of the cars were occupied by well wishers waving out their windows while yelling and holding balloons. 

Madeleine enjoyed seeing the police cars, fire engines and ambulances as she soaked up the attention being paid to her by everyone. But there was something she liked even more.

“Seeing my family,” Madeleine said.

Ochoa said, “Just seeing the kids, their faces light up, makes it all worth it. I heard one of the kids say, ‘Is this all for me?’ That’s the reason why we do it.”

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