Marley Hopper’s 12th birthday is one she won’t soon forget.
First responders wailed their sirens and flashed their lights down Quail Ridge Place as a birthday surprise for the young aspiring firefighter on Friday.
“It was exciting. I didn’t even know that was going to happen,” she said, after happily waving from her grandparent’s front lawn to local firefighters, RCMP and paramedic personnel who toured the street in their vehicles — to the surprise and eventual delight of some neighbours.
The parade was spurred on by an email sent to Osoyoos Fire Department (OFD) Chief Dave McMahon from Marley’s mother, Ashley Hopper.
She and her husband are in Coquitlam and wanted to surprise Marley after being separated for two months.
Ashley’s two daughters were visiting their grandparents for spring break in March when the province’s COVID-19 response started to ramp up and health authorities advised against non-essential travel.
“We made the gut wrenching decision to leave our children in Osoyoos as we didn’t want to expose ourselves to the town, especially since non-essential travel was put in place. We are well aware that many elderly occupants make up Osoyoos’ population and that the town may not have the resources they need to handle an outbreak,” Ashley said in an email to the Times-Chronicle.
“Knowing that Marley’s birthday was right around the corner, I was feeling a little sad and helpless that I wouldn’t be with her. I had seen a few social media posts of people arranging drive-by birthday parades for their loved ones, and since I don’t know anyone in Osoyoos except my parents, I reached out to the Osoyoos Fire Department.”
Fire chief McMahon and the members of his department were happy to oblige the request.
“You just realize that lots of families for different reasons are caught up in this COVID situation, and this one just spoke out to us. The members here were happy to go and try and make the morning a bit brighter for her,” McMahon said.
Marley wants to be a firefighter when she grows up, just like her grandfather Brian Bagnall who worked in North Vancouver for 30 years.
“I know I want to be (a firefighter) because he was one, and I want to help people,” Marley said, adding she will remember her 12th birthday for a while and thanking the local first responders for the surprise.
Marley called her mother after the surprise parade and was “in shock.”
“Absolute pure joy in her voice!” Ashley said, adding the fire department and first responders in town went “above and beyond anything I had ever hoped in making Marley’s 12th birthday so special.”
“She called me to tell me all about the excitement that had happened and declared that this was the ‘best birthday ever!’ I am forever grateful to you, Dave McMahon, the Osoyoos Fire Department, the Osoyoos (RCMP), the Osoyoos Ambulance Service and the town, in helping to make this such a memorable day for Marley. With the upmost respect and appreciation, Thank you!”
Marley also got a couple gifts from the fire chief as well, including an OFD shirt and patch, which she plans on putting on her Girl Guides uniform.
“I had no idea, her mom arranged this,” said Liz Bagnall, Marley’s grandmother, who was visibly surprised by the parade as it pulled around the corner.