High Springs Fire and Police Departments making kid’s birthdays special during COVID-19

Units from the High Springs Fire and Police Departments responded to a call around 6pm… 

I’ve written that phrase or some form of it dozens of times, and cannot remember when it ever ended well… but guess what? This one does.

A once in a lifetime event took place yesterday at a quiet little neighborhood in High Springs, and it’s exactly the story we ALL need to hear.

JR Washington turned three-years-old.

JR, who wore bright red tennis shoes, a t-shirt announcing it was his third birthday, a “fire chief” jacket and helmet, smiled and then hid behind his mother during most of my interview with the reluctant man of the hour. Fortunately, his family stepped in for him.

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“We saw the posts on Facebook that the High Springs Fire Department was doing this so we filled out the form,” said his mother Janaye explained. He just loves firefighters and fire trucks and the lights and the sirens. He wants to be a fireman.”

“We just love him,” said Carmen Kellum, JR’s grandmother. “We wanted him to have a great birthday even during COVID-19.”

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“We felt bad because he couldn’t have his frineds over for his birthday,” said aunt Taylor Thomas. “We thought this would make it a special day.”

Even JR’s great grandmother Ann Bright attended, and said hello from a socially acceptable distance under the carport.

But back to our story…

Units from the High Springs Fire and Police Departments responded to a call around 6pm… 

Surrounded by four generations of family, JR watched in utter shock as police cruisers and fire trucks blared their sirens and flashed their lights, turning 178th Place into a parade route. His father Carron led the way in a black SUV blaring “happy birthday” on his speakers through the open windows.

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 On the second pass, JR collected himself admirably, waved and smiled at the vehicles… a little less caught off guard and far more excited about their presence at his big day.

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It was definitely an event he won’t soon forget, and a breath of fresh air for the reporters, photographers, and first responders in attendance.

Kevin Mangan, Public Information Officer for the High Springs Fire Department, explained how the idea of birthday parades caught fire in High Springs during this time of pandemic.

  “It started to gain popularity nationwide around the beginning of April,” he said. “We had a request come in to us just after Easter for a parade later in the month. The following day, we had another request for the same day. Luckily, these folks lived only a couple of miles apart, so it was easy to do them both. After we posted our first video, we had two more requests. Then we posted another video, and two more requests came in. This is what finally pushed us to create an online entry form. So far, it’s worked out well and the kids are thrilled.” 

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On its Facebook page, the High Springs Fire Department announced the birthday parades will continue through the end of the month.

“We have had such a blast being a part of so many birthday parades around town, that your High Springs Fire Department & High Springs Police Department are now going to open up requests for the rest of the month of May! 

Please note that some requests may not be able to be fulfilled due to our units being committed to calls. 

For ease of scheduling: ALL requests will be fulfilled at 6:00PM.”

 “I can only imagine being a young child during this time,” said Mangan. “No school, no interaction with friends, no “traditional” birthday parties. The idea of the birthday parades is great, and I’m glad we can be a part of it!”

We at Mainstreet Daily News were glad to be a part of it too. Thanks for inviting us JR, and happy birthday!

To sign up for a birthday parade in High Springs, go here.

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Photos by Mainstreet Daily News Staff Photographer Suzette Cook.

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