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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2020 7 months ago

Friends, neighbors make 6-year-old's birthday memorable

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One young girl in Horizon West still had a special sixth birthday last month despite the current COVID-19 pandemic.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

One young girl in Horizon West still had a special sixth birthday last month despite the current COVID-19 pandemic.

After resident Pilar Fernandez was forced to cancel the birthday party of her daughter, Alyssa, because of the fear of COVID-19, friends and neighbors went out of their way to drive by her home and wish her a happy birthday.

“The day before her actual birthday, I had the idea of sending out messages to friends and family to see if they were available to drive by the evening of her birthday,” Pilar Fernandez said. “Everyone immediately jumped in and said they were so excited to drive by, and the rest was history.”

When Alyssa’s birthday arrived March 24, a parade of cars drove by holding signs and banging on pots and pans to throw Alyssa a celebration at a safe distance. Even Alyssa’s kindergarten teacher and her cheerleading coach showed up.

“We had friends drive 45 minutes to see her — we had my Cuban friends drive by with their ‘cazuelas’ pots, making noise,” Pilar Fernandez said. “We had neighbors riding bikes (and) saying happy birthday — some came by in the bed of a truck with blasting music and poster signs. Never would I have imagined this celebration — ever.” 

The surprise celebration was an emotional moment for the Fernandez family.

“To be honest, I almost cried,” Pilar Fernandez said. “It was such a beautiful moment to see everyone come together and share some love. (Alyssa) was filled with so many emotions. She even told me the next morning that she wanted this again for next year.”

The pandemic may have caused the Fernandez family to cancel a birthday party, but it led to an important lesson, Pilar Fernandez said.

“Here I was, all nervous because she couldn’t have the party we had planned, and something so simple as friends and family honking and saying happy birthday is all she needed,” Pilar Fernandez said. “Kids teach us in the rarest moments that life can be very simple and minimal as long as you have loved ones around you.”

Now is the time everyone needs to have each other’s back, she said.

“These times are very difficult for most, and now more than ever we need to be here for one another — 6 feet away, of course,” Pilar Fernandez said. “All I ask is that you continue to go bike riding with your kids, take evening strolls and continue family dinners with them. It’s the little things they cherish and remember.”

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