For kids across North Texas, the coronavirus pandemic has already canceled spring break plans, school and time with friends. For parents, it can be a struggle managing one disappointment after another.
Nicole Elizondo is one of those parents, searching for a way to make her son’s birthday special. Social distancing guidelines prevented a party, so she a Rowlett Police officer friend about stopping by to surprise her son – who hopes to be an officer or firefighter when he grows up.
Tuesday evening, eight squad cars, one fire truck and an ambulance responded. They drove by Elizondo’s home to surprise 11-year-old Anthony Pina.
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“I was surprised,” said Pina. “It was just crazy. I never seen so many cops and lights before.”
“Everybody is just so used to hanging out with family and friends for birthdays. Unfortunately, this year it didn’t happen,” said Elizondo. “It could have been a bummer, but I think this really brightened his day.”
Last week, Tess McWilliams messaged the Rowlett Police Department Facebook page with a similar request for her 6-year-old son, Liam.
“The way I posed the question was: if you have someone available, can you please send someone? I was really only expecting one or two cars,” said McWilliams.
Instead, a long line of first responders showed up to wave to an excited Liam.
“I was happy,” Liam told NBC 5.
Parades like this have been gaining traction across North Texas with first responders from The Colony to Forest Hill responding to family’s requests to surprise their children.
“You guys make a world of a difference for my 6-year-old,” said Nydia Villegas of Forest Hill. “You made his birthday super special, so we just wanted to thank you.”
The Colony Police Department says it participated in more than 30 parades since last week, when the department published a post on its Facebook page about the idea.
The department said it gives officers a chance to engage with the people they serve at a time when community events have been cancelled.
Rowlett Police Officer Cynthia Zavala says emergency calls remain a priority.
“We do have a backup plan so if something major were to go on, we have officers that are able to respond to calls,” explained Zavala.
Zavala added the parades also boost officer morale during the pandemic, “This is something that is going to brighten up our day because we are here 24 hours a day responding to calls. Having something like this is going to remind us that our kids need us and we are here to make them smile.”
“These are the police officers we see every day,” said McWilliams. “They’re out patrolling our streets, so it was nice to see them in a different way, come to celebrate my son.”