First responders make birthday celebration special for Darien boy
It was just another normal day of quarantine on Maywood Road in Darien last Wednesday afternoon, but through a series of events, the day turned out to be anything but normal for one 4-year-old boy on his birthday.
Twenty first responders — as well as lots of neighbors and friends — took the time to make James Bennett’s birthday one he will not likely forgot.
Making it happen
James was supposed have a Toy Story themed party to celebrate his birthday, but due to the coronavirus pandemic — like hundreds of other planned events and gatherings throughout town — it was not going to happen.
“He didn’t understand why,” said his mother, Jessica Bennett.
Bennett has a friend who volunteers for the Darien Fire Department, and gave him a call in the late morning.
“I thought maybe I could get a fire truck to come by,” she said.
Little did she know that her call would set off an idea to get not just one truck to come by the block, but many.
“I didn’t want to tell James,” Bennett said, regarding her idea. “I didn’t want to get his hopes up because I didn’t know if anyone would come.”
Zach McEwan, assistant chief of the Noroton Heights Fire Department, helped organize the special day.
He received a phone call from Alex Bell, a volunteer at the Noroton Heights Fire Station, that a young boy was having a birthday “and he had to spend it at home,” McEwan said. “We got together and tried to make his day a little more special.”
“It took a little bit of time to put together,” McEwan said. “We reached out to different departments. We made sure we had enough drivers.”
The birthday celebration
By around 4:30 p.m. that same day, Bennett received a call from Bell, to confirm they were home.
James and Monty, who is James’ 5-year-old brother, came out of their home and sat in a little red wagon at the end of their driveway, and watched the magic happen.
“The whole neighborhood come by,” Bennett said. “It was so amazing.”
In one long procession, trucks from the Noroton Fire Department, Noroton Heights Fire Department, Darien Fire Department, Darien EMS-Post 53, and Darien Police Department, drove down their block.
“Due to the concerns about the virus, we drove by real slow,” McEwan said.
McEwan said he saw neighbors yelling out of their windows to James, “Happy Birthday.”
Neighbors came out of their houses and stood in their yards, he said, estimating there were about 30 people.
“Many held up Happy Birthday signs,” he said.
“It brought tears to my eyes to see how excited he was with all the celebrations,” he added.
The Bennetts’ garbage pick-up person — City Carting & Recycling — also took part in the event.
“He went to Stop & Shop, bought balloons, tied them onto the mirrors of his garbage truck, and gave them to my boys,” Bennett said.
After the procession passed by, a police officer came back to James’ house and handed him a Darien Police Department patch.
“It has really brought the community together in these troubling times,” McEwan said.
Bennett said she wants to thank everyone who played a role in James’ birthday celebration.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for bringing joy in this time,” she said. “It lifted everybody’s spirit. It filled my heart and made me feel there is hope in the world. It was just so nice.”
When Bennett asked James what he thought of everything, she said he looked up at her and said, “Can we have fire trucks again at my birthday party next year?”