Submitted by YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties.
When COVID-19 shut down schools and businesses in Washington, it seemed as though Maddie O’Brien’s 12th birthday party would have to be canceled, but her grandmother and friends at the Lakewood Family YMCA wanted her to have a great birthday in spite of social distancing. So, they organized a drive-through parade at the Y to celebrate Maddie and let her know how much they cared about her.
The family gathered outside the Y in the rain as over 40 people drove through the parking lot, shouting well wishes, holding signs, and carefully handing presents out their car windows while making sure to avoid any contact. Maddie’s brother helped keep the presents organized while her younger sister gave out long-distance air hugs to everyone who drove by.
When the Y is open, Maddie and her siblings are at the Y almost every day. Maddie is a member of the Lakewood Y’s Grace Gymnastics team and she attends YMCA Camp Seymour and the Camp Corral program each summer.
Maddie was just 5 years old when her father was killed in action in Afghanistan. Her grandmother stepped in to help raise the kids and credits the Y with helping Maddie and her siblings find a positive outlet.
“When we found the Y, they were able to concentrate on something else to help take away the pain,” said Gerri, Maddie’s grandmother. “They were able to start living again.”
In uncertain times, the Y is still here to meet the needs of our friends and neighbors through child care for essential workers, virtual programs, meals for isolated seniors, and throwing the occasional birthday parade for someone who needs it.
Learn more about the Y’s crisis response efforts at ymcapkc.org.