Patty Snediker broke some bad news to her daughter in March: Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the girl’s 14th birthday party was canceled.
“It was hard,” said Snediker, a retail associate at the Roxbury, NY, Post Office. “I had to tell her that with everything going on, there would be no party. She was so sad.”
When Snediker relayed the story to Roxbury Postmaster Jim Hull, he had an unexpected response.
“I’m going to make a lot of noise and bring her a gift,” Hull said.
He wasn’t kidding.
Hull — who volunteers as an emergency medical technician with the fire department in nearby Grand Gorge, NY, about 150 miles north of New York City — surprised Snediker’s daughter on her birthday with a parade of fire trucks.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Snediker said.
The parade was such a big hit, Hull and his fire department colleagues have gone on to organize at least 25 more events for families who are homebound during the pandemic.
The parades feature at least seven emergency vehicles from the Grand Gorge fleet and come complete with sirens, horns, and “Happy Birthday” playing over the public address system. Hull also made a 4-by-9-foot wooden sign to display the celebrant’s name.
“I know most of the kids in the town anyway, but I just add the details like their age and spelling of their name for the sign,” said Hull, who also uses his own money to buy a small gift for each birthday boy and girl.
In addition to birthdays, Hull has organized parades to recognize high school graduates, Memorial Day honorees and Easter.
He and his fellow volunteer firefighters have led as many as three back-to-back parades in the evenings when they are off the clock from their regular workday schedules.
Before the pandemic, local children often had birthday parties at a roller rink or the Grand Gorge firehouse. Hull — who began his postal career in 1999 and has been a volunteer firefighter for almost three decades — plans to continue the parades “until everything is totally open.”
Snediker said as word of Hull’s efforts has spread, firefighters in surrounding towns have been inspired to do the same for their residents.
“It’s a great idea. Everyone deserves it,” she said.
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