OLD IRVING PARK — On the overwhelmingly long list of things disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak are the simple but important things in the lives of children, including birthday parties. But parents across the city are finding creative ways to celebrate them.
In Old Irving Park, Amy Cholis was going to have friends and family over Sunday for the fourth birthday of her son Jack. But when Gov. JB Pritzker announced the stay at home order on Friday, those plans had to change.
So Cholis emailed her neighbors in the 4000 and 4100 blocks of North Kostner Avenue letting them know the party was off — and asking for help.
“I asked our neighbors if they were willing to swing by the front of our house and say or sing happy birthday to Jack while they were on their walks outside during social distancing,” Cholis said.
When Heather Debby got that email, she decided to take it one step further: She organized a bingo scavenger hunt for kids in the neighborhood to celebrate Jack’s birthday.
“All this happy stuff is popping up all over the city during this. My friend was able to share everything she had done for something similar over in Portage Park,” Debby said.
The bingo game works by having neighbors hang up drawings of things like dogs, pizza, superheroes, dinosaurs, rainbows and more in their home’s windows. Then someone with a bingo card walks around the neighborhood trying to find the drawings to fill in their card.
Debby emailed neighbors to see if they wanted to join in. Once they had a list of OKs, Debby left the materials needed to participate in people’s mailboxes with instructions on what to do.
“About 90 percent of the houses on our block had pictures on their windows,” said Gerta Sorensen, another neighbor.
Other parents on the block also took their kids out to participate in the game, but were staying at least six feet away from each other as they played.
“It was just really sweet and really thoughtful. It was just a really cool moment,” Cholis said. “While we were on our scavenger hunt neighbors were on their porches wishing Jack happy birthday and singing happy birthday to him. It was just really sweet and really thoughtful.”
In addition to the game, Debby also placed a sign on Cholis’ front porch to let people leave Jack happy birthday messages.
“I almost cried because there was a picture out on everyone’s window. A kid doesn’t really get why this is happening. My child is like ‘What is happening? Why can’t I see my friends or go to school? Why are we standing so far away from everyone?’ ” Debby said. “I have twins, they’re both four. Little kids love being special on their birthday. No one wants their birthday shut down because of a pandemic.”
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