Drive-by birthday party one to remember for Round Lake girl

  • Round Lake resident Ryann Mateja's 13th birthday party Tuesday was a mobile event that included Round Lake police, the mayor and other well-wishers in dozens of cars.

      Round Lake resident Ryann Mateja's 13th birthday party Tuesday was a mobile event that included Round Lake police, the mayor and other well-wishers in dozens of cars. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Ryann Mateja of Round Lake is in shock as her mom, Lauren, breaks down in tears during a drive-by celebration of her 13th birthday Tuesday.

      Ryann Mateja of Round Lake is in shock as her mom, Lauren, breaks down in tears during a drive-by celebration of her 13th birthday Tuesday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Ryann Mateja, 13, of Round Lake celebrated her birthday Tuesday with a parade of cars.

      Ryann Mateja, 13, of Round Lake celebrated her birthday Tuesday with a parade of cars. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Round Lake resident Ryann Mateja's 13th birthday party Tuesday was a mobile event that included Round Lake police, the mayor and other well-wishers in dozens of cars.

      Round Lake resident Ryann Mateja's 13th birthday party Tuesday was a mobile event that included Round Lake police, the mayor and other well-wishers in dozens of cars. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Friends and others in dozens of cars took part in a drive-by birthday celebration Tuesday for 13-year-old Ryann Mateja of Round Lake.

      Friends and others in dozens of cars took part in a drive-by birthday celebration Tuesday for 13-year-old Ryann Mateja of Round Lake. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/24/2020 6:29 PM

The Florida trip to see the ocean had to be canceled, and so was the pajama party with friends.

But on Tuesday, Ryann Mateja of Round Lake still managed to get a 13th birthday party she'll never forget.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With gatherings prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic, an inventive Plan C was needed. So Ryann's best friends and her mother engineered a surprise that, for a while at least, made everyone involved feel better.

On Tuesday afternoon, quiet Magnolia Lane became festive, as a drive-by birthday celebration led by several village police cars was followed by dozens of vehicles packed with well-wishers waving signs and shouting greetings.

"It was way more than I expected," said Ryann's mom, Lauren. "I can't believe how many people came together for this."

Ryann, a seventh-grader and top student at Big Hollow Middle School, was too shy later to give a reaction. But as the mechanics were assembled on Facebook -- a social media outlet she doesn't have or look at -- she didn't know what was coming, The event was a complete but welcome surprise.

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"Ryann was shocked and sort of confused at first, then totally shocked," Lauren said.

"She said it was the first time she's felt like a normal person (since the stay-at -home order) because she hasn't seen anybody."

Others felt it, too, including Mayor Dan MacGillis, who drove his new truck in the rolling party.

"We have hard times right now, and anything that we can do to improve the mental health of our community, I'm all in on it," he said.

He presented the 13-year-old with a proclamation declaring Tuesday as Ryann S. Mateja Birthday Parade Day in the village.

She also received dozens of balloons and cards, flowers, banners and signs.

Lauren said she hopes the event could "be the start of something really cool in our community," with more to come. She noted that some of the parade participants were shedding happy tears.

"They're going to go home, and it's gong to be a good day," she said. "Finally."

• Daily Herald staff writer Mark Welsh contributed to this report.

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