Nash Neufeld’s fifth birthday proved to be one he and his family won’t soon forget. The Neufelds and the community combined for a memorable ceremony, including a car parade, first responders and a big pile of food donations.
Not only did the Neufelds come up with a way to celebrate Nash’s fifth, they did so in memorable fashion. Nash’s mother Jacquelyn organized a combination parade and donation drive, asking friends, neighbours, family and even a few strangers to take part in a car parade by the family’s home and donate items to the Lord’s Bounty Food Bank.
“He always has bigger than life birthdays, because he’s bigger than life. He’s very social, very outgoing and he really, he just enjoys seeing people,” said Jacquelyn.
“We knew that we couldn't have a traditional birthday party for him. I had seen that other people were doing parades. Nash loves parades, so I thought, ‘Oh perfect! We’ll get a parade going for him.’”
Once she had the initial idea, Jacquelyn spread it on social media.
“It was unbelievable. At first I started with just like a private event on Facebook, then I ended up putting it on Flin Flon Post It. From there, people asked me to share it around,” she said.
“The biggest gift that Nash can get is people just waving and saying ‘Hi’ to him. We wanted to come up with an idea that could draw a crowd.”
Nash, now a healthy five-year-old boy, has KBG syndrome, a rare condition caused by a genetic mutation that affects several aspects of his life. The syndrome affects his overall growth and can have impacts on hearing, eyesight and other senses. Perhaps most crucially during COVID-19, KBG affects a person’s immune system, making them susceptible to infection and illness.
With social distancing and staying at home now societal norms and Nash’s immune system already vulnerable, his family had to get creative when it came time to celebrate his fifth birthday.
Part of drawing that crowd was including a request that participants or passers-by donate items to the food bank.
“We also know that the food bank is really being used by more people than just the regular people. We wanted to make sure that we were giving back to the community because this community has given so much to Nash over the years,” Jacquelyn said.
On parade day - May 17 - the family had a challenge to fulfill. Vehicles were lining up and Nash wanted to fill his father Brent’s truck with donations to the food bank.
“He always likes facing a challenge and competition so then he said, ‘Let's fill daddy's truck for the food bank,’” Jacquelyn said.
The family succeeded in that goal - and then some.
“We more than filled the truck - we had to get mommy’s Jeep out, too,” she said.
When it came time for the parade, people drove by the family home honking and waving, showing support for Nash and the family. Members of the Flin Flon Fire Department and local RCMP appeared in the crowd, complete with fire trucks and sirens.
“We lost count at well over a hundred vehicles and the fire trucks came out in full force,” said Jacquelyn.
“That was unbelievable. The fire department not only donated money but they donated food and also collected money from their members to donate to the food bank.”
The youngster was overwhelmed with the support.
“He did a complete happy dance throughout the yard. He could not control his body, he yelled and waved,” Jacquelyn said.
“Complete strangers that we didn't know came by the parade and said, ‘Thanks, buddy!’ Nash was so thrilled because people were acknowledging his good deeds that he was doing and they were taking the time to come and say happy birthday to him too. When you have that big of a smile on your face, people just naturally smile back.”
With the celebration now in the rear-view mirror, Jacquelyn is still impressed and surprised with how supportive the community was during the event and donation drive.
“This was totally intended as a drive for the food bank, but we were shocked with how generous this community is. So many people gave him a little something to thank him for doing this, like a card or a poster or like a little token present. He never expected any of that and he was excited about all of that,” she said.
“There were huge bags of flour and fish and beans and noodles and the like, cereal and peanut butter. They were such good, thoughtful donations.”
Nash and Jacquelyn are currently in self-isolation - mother and son have returned from a vital post-parade medical checkup for Nash in Saskatoon. While his syndrome presents its own tough challenges and risks, Jacquelyn said the community has rallied around Nash throughout his young life.
“I really appreciate the way that this town has embraced Nash and supported him through everything he's gone through, including making his birthday so special. I think this one is going to be a hard one to top.”