Birthday Brigade: Man organizes birthday parades for children celebrating during COVID-19 pandemic
MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WWBT) - The Hallsley neighborhood in Midlothian is usually pretty quiet, except for Sundays at 6 p.m. sharp when the “Birthday Brigade” rolls in.
Ashley Stoloff was forced to cancel her daughter Stella’s traditional birthday party because of COVID-19, but luckily for her, the “Birthday Brigade” was on duty.
”For my daughter, it meant so much. She as jumping up and down the whole time,” says Stoloff.
Ray Marotta’s son, Landon, also got to celebrate his big day with the “Birthday Brigade.”
”You can hear it from the back of the neighborhood, it is loud. My son has been looking forward to it for a month and a half in a way hoping the pandemic didn’t end before his birthday party came,” says Marotta.
For the past 15 weeks, more than 150 kids, just like Stella and Landon, celebrated their birthdays, thanks to the “Brigadier General” himself, Louie Correa.
Neighbors come together, decorate their cars, meet up at a specific location, grab their noisemakers, and drive to the house of the birthday boy or girl. Caitlyn Noto-Doan saw it all come together.
“From the very beginning, I think it created a lot of hope, a lot of excitement for both parents and kids,” Noto-Doan said.
She got a text from Correa back on March 18 and the rest was history.
The goal was simple: “Let’s be physically distant but socially excellent.”
Louie didn’t know everyone in his neighborhood but he knew their heart. He was sympathetic to the families adjusting to COVID-19, and not having a birthday party, was not an option. Things started out small but quickly spread like wildfire.
“Every week he’s just shown up and people have shown up, and there’s new people and people who come every week. I’m really happy that Ashley is doing this for them and for him, I think he would be very surprised,” Noto-Doan said.
The three parents walked to Louie’s house to say thank you and surprise him with NBC12′s Acts of Kindness. It came with a $300 and a $50 gift card to Mexico Restaurant.
“What I hope the children get out of it is the opportunity to feel celebrated and feel special,” says Correa.
“I think during this quarantine, I’ve made more friends in this neighborhood than the four years previous. It’s pretty amazing when an opportunity like this can present itself if you look for it.”
As for the money, Ray Marotta jokingly has a recommendation.
“Knowing Louie, he’s not going to keep it. Maybe he can use it for a better megaphone. He’s got this tiny megaphone with a siren on it and he uses it to the max.”
Or he might pass it along to his daughter, Maddie, so she can use it to tell her infamous jokes.
“What do you call a bear with no teeth? Gummy bears,” Maddie said.
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