Deputies visit to make birthdays special
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected seemingly every detail of everyday life for young people and adults alike, as children have seen school canceled, their parents have attempted to teach at home and everyday routines have been disrupted.
And kids who have birthdays during the pandemic shutdown — like 10-year-old Sierra Helgeson, ABOVE — can’t have the sort of special day they might have been looking forward to.
Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez is taking steps to make sure those birthdays are ones the kids will remember.
“Most kids, you ask them what their birthday is or how old they are, they’ll tell you — I’m 8, 8.5, I’ll be 9 next month — they know exactly when their birthday is. It’s a very special day for them,” Martinez said. “We’re trying to really make them feel special in these times.”
Borrowing an idea from Grand County law enforcement, Summit County sheriff’s deputies have been visiting people celebrating their birthdays, bringing balloons, making announcements on the patrol vehicle’s P.A. systems and flashing lights and sirens — all while making sure to maintain social distance.
The sheriff said they expected maybe 10 people to show interest, but they’ve been doing three or four a day since the initiative was posted on Facebook April 8.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Martinez said. Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright estimated there had been more than 70 celebrations and added that calls for service remain the top priority, and that deputies are only free to do birthday celebrations as their other duties permit.
Martinez said the effort falls in line with his community-centric law enforcement philosophy, something that has been challenged as the social distancing guidelines have made it harder for deputies to interact directly with members of the community.
“We just want to make a big fanfare out of it by turning on all the lights and sirens, wishing them happy birthday over the P.A. while maintaining social distance,” Martinez said. “This whole program … is based around COVID-19 and us being locked up, but that’s hard for the kids to have to stay home. And especially on their birthdays, that’s very special to them.”
To request a birthday celebration with Summit County sheriff’s deputies, call 435-615-3686.
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