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Rankin Inlet firefighters deliver surprise birthday drive-bys

Members of the Rankin Inlet Fire Department began spreading a little joy among kids forced to skip their birthday party due to the Covid-19 pandemic this past month – and some Elders too.

Rosalinde (baby) King is thrilled to have firefighters, from left, Chloe Norris, Mark Wyatt (fire chief) and Troy Innukshuk present her with a drive-by birthday visit in Rankin Inlet this past month.
Photo courtesy RIFD

Rankin Fire Chief Mark Wyatt got the idea for the drive-by birthday visits from departments in the south he saw that had launched the initiative.

Wyatt said as soon as he saw them, he thought that would be a great idea in Rankin because kids and elders are having to skip birthday parties this year in their community too.

He said they began the initiative for elder Jack Kabvitok’s birthday this past month.

“We have done about eight kids’ birthday drive-bys just by people contacting us about it before I had a chance to even promote it on social media this past week,” said Wyatt.

“The basic idea is that kids can’t have birthday parties with social distancing and the banning of group gatherings right now due to Covid-19, so what can a local fire department do to help?

“Well, we show-up with a fire truck or two, firefighters and a big sign that everybody worked on that says happy birthday.

“We pull up in front of their home, start the siren and jump out of the truck with the big sign. Everybody comes out to see and the kids’ eyes are so wide it’s just ridiculous.

“We’re only there for a couple of minutes and then we drive away, but, I think, the impact really helps make a difference because the feedback we’ve been getting from parents and the people who we’ve done this for – they just think it’s fantastic.”

The Rankin department is doing the drive-by birthday visits for children age 12 and younger and elders over 75.

Wyatt said the department will keep doing the birthday drive-bys until people are allowed to visit each other once again in Rankin.

He said that might be within another few weeks but, given the fact there’s now a confirmed in case of Covid-19 in Nunavut and not knowing what will happen with that, it could also be the next few months.

“There are a number of rumours swirling around on that front, but everyone should stay calm until the facts are released from Pond Inlet by our government.

“We are, however, extremely well prepared to contain this virus in a number of places.

“Having said that, our department will keep trying to spread a little joy in the community during these trying times with our drive-by birthdays.

“And we will continue to do that until things return to normal in our community.”