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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Birthday Brigade Brings Light to Kids Stuck at Home During COVID-19 Orders

Kids who can’t have the birthday parties of their dreams due to the COVID-19 pandemic are getting social-distance salutations on their special days from one big-hearted city.

Police, fire and public works vehicles in Crystal, Minn., have participated in forming mini parades complete with lights, sirens and honking horns to brighten the big day of homebound kids.

City of Crystal Director of Public Works Mark Ray told HSToday that they saw another city doing something similar to wish kids happy birthday during the coronavirus crisis, but only using the fire department.

“In Crystal, police, fire, and public works frequently work together, bringing their unique capabilities, to support public safety,” Ray said.

Thus the “Birthday Brigade” was born, with the police and public works departments starting with the rough concept, reaching out to the West Metro Fire Rescue District, and ironing out the details together.

City residents can submit their information for a Birthday Brigade visit for kids 12 and under. Brigade visit windows are 9 a.m to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“The vehicles simply turn their lights on and sound their sirens/horns while approaching the house, wave to the kids (or wait briefly till they come to the window), and then depart,” Ray said. “In maintaining social separation during COVID-19, the staff do not get out of the vehicle. We do not set a specific time of the visit (it is just within that two-hour window) nor do we guarantee any visits or that all departments will visit.”

Ray called the outreach “just another way that the partners in public safety (police, fire, public works) have come together to support the community during these challenging times.”

“With the Minnesota governor’s order to stay at home, this is a way we can promote healthy practices and community pride,” he said.

Resident reactions are reflecting that community pride. “This is THE BEST!! Thank you City of Crystal for doing this. You did a drive by for my neighbor on Tuesday for her birthday… it was my birthday that day too, so I got to enjoy the drive by too,” Chantell Jernell wrote on the city’s Facebook page, adding the hashtag #bestcommunityever.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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