It was raining. It was windy and it was raw Friday. It was not the kind of day to be outside, least of all for a parade.
But these are unusual times and Deb Maldonado wasn’t going to let a pandemic stand in the way of celebrating Ayden Orum’s 14th birthday.
The Veterans Memorial Middle School teacher, along with fellow students and teachers sang to Ayden during their Google Meet class in the morning.
Ayden shared some of the jokes he had written for the school talent night that won’t be happening.
Maldonado said Ayden loves telling jokes.
Maldonado didn’t stop with the virtual salutations. Unbeknownst to Ayden she put out the word to the faculty. They in turn enlisted their families in making signs wishing Ayden a happy birthday and, in some cases bought balloons and decorated their cars. They then agreed to meet at a parking lot on Atlantic Avenue in Lakewood…after school, of course.
The surprise was pulled off just as planned.
Ayden couldn’t imagine what was happening as the cars, horns blaring, turned down Washington Street. At first he thought it was some kind of fracas. He came out of the house, standing on the porch and recognized teachers as well as the school Principal David Tober. They were shouting happy birthday and waving, Ayden waved and shouted their names. His father Chris, who recorded the scene on his cell phone, had been clued in that something was going to happen. He thought three or four cars might show up, but never a dozen.
“All the teachers were there. It was really good,” he said.
The parade wasn’t a single drive-by either. Cars rounded the block and back for a follow-up display. Ayden was delighted. Like so many he can’t wait to get back to school. (Text and photos by John Howell)