Social distancing dashed this boy’s birthday party. Neighbors put on a big drive-by celebration
MARIETTA, Ga. (CNN) — A caravan of rainbow streamer-laced vehicles cruised down the road in Marietta, Georgia, making a cheerful noise.
Some cars blared their horns. Some drivers sang birthday songs, big signs scrolled across their doors and windshields.
“Happy Birthday Jack!”
The rolling festivity was the brainchild of Amanda Overstreet Wagner. The travel agent normally sends people off to happy places. But now, as a “neighborhood social distance event planner,” she’s bringing happiness to a deserving boy.
Recognizing a family in need
“It’s been a really hard couple of weeks. So, I think Amanda knew of just the family that could use a smile,” Jessica Eaton said.
Eaton’s 11-year-old son, Jack, lost his grandfather on March 2. When he returned from the funeral, his school closed. Just when the boy needed emotional support from his friends, everyone was practicing social distancing. His birthday party on March 22 would have to be canceled.
“I thought ‘what if for Jack’s birthday we rallied all the neighborhood moms and their kids and made a little birthday caravan to drive by his house and wish him a happy birthday?'” Wagner told CNN.
She sent a group text to neighbors, spelled out her idea and set the 1 p.m. launch time to make a boy’s day.
“It was awesome,” Jack’s mother said.
Eaton says she felt a tremendous amount of pressure about her son’s birthday. Not only did he not have a party, he didn’t have any gifts.
“He did not get a single present from us, and it’s not about that,” Eaton said.
“The biggest gift was the love that everyone showed him, and that is what he needed.”
“It just was such a cheerful moment at a time that is really unsettling and uncertain for everybody,” Wagner said.
Redirecting energy in uncertain times
Wagner, like many others in her industry, has been walloped by the coronavirus pandemic. While working on ways to secure her business in the future, she has also found a way to apply her creativity and know-how right at home.
“I feel like some of this coronavirus has been more dividing us as Americans rather than uniting,” she explained.
“So, in my little neighborhood in the suburbs of Atlanta, I’m trying to be more of a unifying factor.”
She organized a rainbow scavenger hunt, where neighbors draw rainbows on their homes in chalk.
“The kids and families can look on their walks and try to find the hidden rainbows on the houses.”
The mother of two is also organizing a graduation caravan to honor high school seniors and fifth graders who will miss out on their school ceremonies and other special events.
“I think people right now are looking for something little that they can do to make an impact or have a positive impact on somebody else,” said Wagner.
“It’s free; it doesn’t cost a dime.”
Wagner hopes her activities inspire others to create ways to build community spirit — in a time of social distancing.