The viral pandemic could take a tip or two on exponential growth from the organizers of a new movement in Moose Jaw designed to make local birthdays just a little more special in this era of social distancing.
An initiative spearheaded by Jody Chell, one of the folks behind the Sharing Our Hearts of Moose Jaw Facebook page, saw an incredible 100 vehicles from as far as Regina take part in the Moose Jaw Birthday Parade on Saturday afternoon, creating a special moment that left many recipients in awe.
“We saw a screenshot of a group out of B.C. doing it, so we said ‘why don’t we do this?’ and it blew up from there, it’s been awesome,” Chell said Saturday afternoon while fielding hundreds of messages from well-wishers after the epic event.
“I actually didn’t think it would be so successful, so quickly,” she added. “But you could see on the Sharing our Hearts page that people needed something positive. It was just going to be me and some of my friends, and we didn’t think anyone who wanted to join.
“But it’s just grown from there, and with the times right now and the virus stopping everything, people need something positive, they need something to do and they need something to look forward to and I think that’s why it’s gained traction so quickly.”
The format is simple. People visit the Moose Jaw Birthday Parade page on Facebook, join the group, fill in their information on a form on the page and essentially book a drive-by.
That led to 20 homes receiving a parade on Saturday afternoon, and a seemingly unending one, too boot.
“There were people who left work today and spent their one hour lunch break with us, it was awesome and amazing,” Chell said.
The parades have been taking place on a smaller scale since the end of March, with Chell and a handful of friends making the rounds on a nightly basis. That started to become a little too consuming, though, leading to a suggestion that led to Saturday’s amazing event.
“My friend Brandon from Déjà Vu said ‘just do them all on Saturday, it’ll be so much easier’,” Chell explained. “Birthday parties happen on Saturdays anyway for kids in normal times, so it worked out pretty well. So anyone during the week can book, and Saturday we drive by your house.”
The response from recipients of the parade has been overwhelming. In addition to the simple thank-yous, some include stories of just how much the event meant to them.
“If people knew the backstories of some of these birthday parties… one lady is suffering from postpartum, and this literally made her day,” Chell said. “And seniors who can’t leave their house, we’re getting message saying we made their day. It definitely makes it all worth it.”
Then there are the parade participants themselves.
“They get to go out in their own car and get to do something safe,” said Chell. “That’s one of the reasons we moved it over to Saturdays, sometimes we’d only have one or two and it would take 10 minutes. So we wanted to have that safe outing for people, and that’s one of the reasons I think we had so many cars today. It’s a chance to decorate your car, a chance to get out of a couple hours where it’s safe and give you something to do.”
There is one problem, though: four or five cars is an easy drive past. A hundred cars? That could be a traffic jam. It’s something Chell is plenty aware of, though, and she plans to make sure things are kept safe.
“If it turns out like it did today, we might even need to get a parade permit or something, which would be a good problem to have,” she said with a laugh. “I have no idea what it will be like next week, I’m a safety person so I’m all about laws and regulations and being safe, and I don’t want it to get shut down. The police said ‘just keep doing what you’re doing, don’t text and drive and we’ll support you’. But at the same time, I don’t think they were expecting 100 cars to show up today, either.”
The current plan is to have another parade next Saturday afternoon, with vehicles gathering in the Town’N’Country Mall parking lot and leaving from there.
“We don’t have any idea how many more people will come out, but we have people driving from Regina to come to these, people from two car clubs who are involved, and it’s just an amazing time.”