Now that’s a party favor

Charlee LeClaire

Social distancing has meant traditional birthday celebrations have been replaced by birthday parades

By Per Peterson

Not even social distancing can stop a birthday party for a kindergartener.

Charlee LeClaire turned 6 years old last Wednesday, but because of distance learning brought on by the spread of COVID-19, she wasn’t able to share her big day with her classmates in Kaitlin Rohlik’s class.

So Rohlik brought the party to her.

With a convoy led by her father, Adam, at the wheel of a Dovray fire truck, a birthday parade was thrown in Charlee’s honor by her home, about 20 miles south of Tracy.

“It was so cute,” Charlee’s mother, Chrissy, said. “The kids were so excited, they were all waving to each other. It’s so nice that the school went out of their way to do that.”

Chrissy said Rohlik had contacted her the weekend before about the prospect of holding a drive-by-birthday party for Charlee, even though the LeClaires are one of the farthest families from Tracy. When asked what day would be best, Chrissy said it would be most special if the party happened on Charlee’s actual birthday.

“She had actually sent out contacts to parents and posted things about how she would like to do this,” Chrissy said. “It’s the first birthday in her class since school has been closed. I thought it was such a cute idea. At this age, they talk about the calendar in class and all the kids pay attention to whose birthday is going up.”

Rohlik has a private Facebook page for her students; everyone met at the elementary school that day and then drove to the LeClaire’s.

“We had seven cars of teachers and classmates of Charlee’s waving, honking, yelling ‘Happy birthday’ and ‘I miss you!’ and throwing her candy,” Rohlik said. “It was pure joy seeing her excitement. It was perfect. It was so much fun to see how happy she was, (I’m) so glad that we could all do that for her! Charlee’s mom told me how much Charlee loves parades, so this was perfect for her!”

Rohlik said the plan going forward is to do something similar for the remaining birthdays in her class.

Joining Charlee for her big day were her second-grade sister, Karsynn, her brother, Jett, a junior at Tracy Area High School, and Nana and Papa, Patty and Dave LeClaire.

“They were going to come over to drop off a present, so they just came during that time, so they watched with us,” said Chrissy, who was able to keep the over-the-road birthday bash a complete surprise for her daughter.

“It’s a great idea,” Chrissy said. “I hope it inspires other places to do stuff like this during this time because it’s new for everybody. Nobody has been through something like this. The kids are starting to miss their friends, so it was neat to see them all leaning out the car window and waving. Charlee couldn’t believe all these people were driving down the road just for her.”