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Police, deputies brighten kids’ birthdays during pandemic

Rio Rancho Police officers pose with a local boy whose sixth birthday they helped celebrate recently. Courtesy photo.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Many children look forward each year to a birthday party, and having such an anticipated event canceled, even to try to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, can be heartbreaking.

“A lot of things we normally take for granted have had to be put on the back-burner,” said Sandoval County Sheriff’s Lt. John Castañeda.

The sheriff’s office and Rio Rancho Police Department are doing their part to help some of the youngest kids adjust to life in the pandemic. One of their solutions? Birthday parades.

The sheriff’s office and RRPD Facebook pages have shown videos and photos of law enforcement vehicles sounding sirens as they line a street. After coming to a stop at a home, all the deputies or officers sing “Happy Birthday” to a child who, due to social-distancing measures, had to cancel a birthday party.

For the sheriff’s office, the idea was conceived by Deputy John Colvin. The boy’s mother reached out to Colvin and told him about the party’s cancellation.

Upon receiving that information, Colvin turned to his colleagues with the idea. Soon, the day shift crew members made their way to the home with gifts and a song.

“It was heartfelt on both sides,” Castañeda said. “The deputies were just so proud of doing this thing for that little guy. And the family was just glad that we were able to do that for anyone else in the community.”

RRPD’s Facebook page said the opportunity to visit a 6-year-old boy on his birthday came unexpectedly. When a break in calls came, they visited him and formed their own choir to sing “Happy Birthday.”

RRPD Lt. Ray Alderete said the department “greatly values its community and really enjoys our positive interactions.”

“Although calls for service and current social-distancing guidelines influence our ability to participate in these types of events, we really enjoy breaking away from the normal and doing what we can to support our community,” he continued. “Fortunately on this day, we were able to celebrate this young man’s sixth birthday. We hope it helped brighten his day and brought him joy. I know it was a pleasant experience for us.”

The sheriff’s office and RRPD said such visits will not likely happen on a daily basis as both agencies still need to perform their regular duties. However, if the chance to send their birthday wishes to more young children comes, they will consider doing it again.

“We’re still trying to be a part of the community while social-distancing. We definitely want to show our support to whoever we can and when we can,” Castañeda said. “With some of these smaller kids, this might have an impact…These special moments and events are when families and communities come together. We want to be able to brighten (the kids’) spirits and do this.”

Alderete said Rio Rancho police appreciate the incredible support from the community.

“We know social distancing measures have changed our lives a bit, but we will continue giving back to our community in the safest way possible under the current circumstances,” he said.

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