Wauconda Fire District helps bring joy to birthday boys and girls during coronavirus crisis
Wauconda Fire District Battalion Chief Devin Mueller posted on the district's Facebook page Monday that firefighters would be available for drive-by visits to children on their birthdays while families are isolated during the coronavirus crisis.
Within hours, the post had been shared dozens of times, and Mueller began fielding calls from parents whose children were unable to have parties with friends because of the pandemic. That afternoon, Wauconda Fire District crews visited four birthday boys and girls, then six more on Tuesday and nine on Wednesday.
One of the first to receive a birthday surprise was Maddie Myers, who turned 9 last Wednesday.
"I didn't tell her they were coming," Maddie's mom, Emily Myers, said. "I just said, 'Let's go outside,' and all of the sudden we heard the siren."
At that moment a shiny red fire engine rolled by the Myers' home followed by Mueller in his battalion dhief's SUV. Firefighters inside the engine waved signs, and Mueller said happy birthday to Maddie over the loudspeaker.
"It was super sweet," Emily Myers said. "It was just a reminder of what a great town we live in. It's a little thing ... they are so busy, they have a lot going on, but it means the world to a child."
Maddie immediately went inside and called her grandparents to tell them proudly what had happened, Emily Myers said.
Mueller has been on every drive-by. He said normally he wouldn't work three days in a row but he loves doing it.
"If it was up to me, I'd take an engine all over the county and do it because it's so fun," Mueller said.
Mueller said he makes it clear to parents that emergencies come first.
He's fielded calls from many parents who live outside the Wauconda Fire District and has to tell them he isn't able to accommodate their request.
Other village departments are also offering to help. Round Lake Heights Police Chief John Roehlk posted on the department's Facebook page that officers would help parents coordinate small birthday parades for their children if asked. Roehlk said they've had no takers so far but he looks forward to helping.
Mueller said Wednesday that there were already eight more birthday visits scheduled for Thursday.