For most teenagers, a birthday party is a time they look forward to — friends and family typically celebrate with some kind of party. But, as the COVID-19 pandemic triggers shelter-in-place orders across the country, many events, including birthday parties, have been canceled.
For Jonathan Haselbusch, that was the case.
He was looking forward to having a bounce house for his 17th birthday party. When the party was canceled because of Los Angeles countywide safer-at-home orders, his mom, Christina Haselbusch, looked for other ways to celebrate.
“I saw on the news or Facebook that a little girl in Illinois couldn’t have her birthday and her mom organized a drive by birthday. That’s where I got the idea for Jonathan from.” Christina Haselbusch said.
Finding something special for her son wasn’t easy. Jonathan has trouble communicating and some issues with fine and gross motor skills, Christina Haselbusch said.
His parents decided to focus on some of his special interests — people in social service-oriented roles like garbage collectors and first responders.
So, Christina Haselbusch hit social media with a plea to gather them at her home on Jonathan’s birthday.
“I put it on Facebook and asked people to reach out to our local fire and sheriff’s department because Jonathan loves them,” Christina Haselbusch said.
The response to her message was more than she expected. As the spring sun reached its high point in the sky, car after car rolled up the hill leading up to Haselbusch driveway.
Hellos and cheers reverberated up and down the canyon road. It was safe to say, based on his bashful smiles, Jonathan was elated.
But, his parents had one more trick up their sleeve. Sirens in the distance aren’t unusual in the Santa Clarita Valley. The far-off wails soon grew louder and less distant.
Jonathan peeked around the corner and was basked in the bright red, white and blue lights of several Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station patrol cars, a fire engine and a fire patrol unit from station 132.
“When I saw all those sheriff’s deputies and firefighters, the tears started coming,” Christina Haselbusch said. “I was so overwhelmed that somebody had reached out to them and they responded.”
Her son’s reaction was perhaps the most impactful element of the surprise — not one eye was dry.
“To see Jonathan explode with joy and his eyes pop out his head was so amazing. I can’t explain how special it was to me,” Christina Haselbusch said. “It touched my heart.”
Deputies presented Jonathan with many gifts, and allowed him to sit inside one of the radio cars.
“He loves the police and fire department. They mean a lot to him” said Christina Haselbusch
Many families joined in the parade — Jonathan’s hockey coaches, classmates and friends all drove by donning poppers, glitter, hats and home-made posters, all dedicated to the teen and his interests.
“You made our day special, and more importantly, Jonathan’s day special,” Christina Haselbusch said. “The signs, the poppers and gifts and balloons, this is what community is all about. I’m so grateful to be a part of this.”
Of the many parade-goers, Jonathan’s longtime friend Alex Patton, who has taken Jonathan to proms tailored to teens with special needs, was teary-eyed for much of the occasion.
“Jonathan has a huge personality. He is my best friend. He is very lovable. He’s a teddy bear for sure,” Patton said. “It’s the little things. You want him to have everything because he loves so much.”
Patton watched the teen grow up and affectionately calls him “Bear,” a nickname that seems to have stuck.
The entire Haselbusch family offered their thanks to the first responders, friends, family and community members that made the day special.
“To see how many people respond to this drive-by birthday bash is overwhelming. I am so touched that people would take time out of their day to come celebrate Jonathan, even if they don’t know him. It means so much to me and I am honored that I am his mama,” Christina Haselbusch said as the parade was coming to a close.
In a world where the sky seems to be falling down, small acts of love like this are what the community needs to persevere.
“Jonathan brings everyone together. He brings you back to what really matters. He brings you back to the moment of ‘stop making things so complicated.’ What matters is people, life and love,” said Patton. “I love you guys for having such a huge heart to take time to drive by just to see a kid smile. It’s amazing. Thank you for opening your hearts to take that time.”