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The coronavirus stole his birthday party. Mom comes to the rescue

Neighbors helped decorate the porch in their Culver City neighborhood to help Jack Henry Iverson celebrate his birthday under quarantine.
Neighbors helped decorate the porch in their Culver City neighborhood to help Jack Henry Iverson celebrate his birthday under quarantine.
(Courtesy of Sheila Iverson)

Jack Henry Iverson got the bad news on Sunday.

He was 6 years old, but not for long. And therein lies the problem. Because the Culver City first-grader turned 7 on St. Patrick’s Day. His school was closed. The president of the United States had told everyone to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus and warned against gatherings of more than 10 people.

Like birthday parties.

In the frightening new world of COVID-19, it doesn’t pay to be a Pisces or an Aries, those unfortunate folks who will be the first to celebrate their Big Day on lockdown. The virus has abridged our ability for celebration. But it also has forced us to find new ways to commemorate and communicate.

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Sheila Iverson, Jack Henry’s mom, rose to the occasion, like a growing number of friends and family members who are taking to social media and beyond to figure out how to make big moments special.

Celebrating his birthday at school, said the brown-haired boy with big eyes and a missing front tooth, makes him “excited a little. Happy. I think that’s it.”

But now, his party at Linwood E. Howe Elementary was out. No brownies. No chance to pick a book for his mom to read in class. On top of that, his first sleepover was canceled, along with the carefully planned indoor soccer fete.

There was a consolation prize: He got to have anything he wanted to eat for much of the day. Breakfast was eggs and four pieces of bacon instead of his usual two. And dinner? Doughnuts. Chocolate glazed. Period.

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What Jack Henry didn’t know was that his mom had a surprise in store. He was supposed to walk around his neighborhood Tuesday and count the shamrocks people had put in their windows. But the day before, Iverson sent out a message on the block’s group chat.

“I just had this idea,” Iverson texted. “It’s Jack Henry’s birthday tomorrow. He’s sad because he can’t really do anything. It would be so cool if you guys made signs that said happy birthday to him on your window.”

They did. And then some. As Iverson and Jack Henry strolled the block in their Carlson Park neighborhood Tuesday at the agreed-upon time of 2 p.m., they passed big homemade signs that said “Happy Birthday Jack Henry” in bright crayon and marker. Families gathered on lawns and in driveways, holding birthday posters, singing the birthday song and staying a requisite 6-plus feet away.

Friends who lived farther away drove by with birthday banners. One mother and daughter — in St. Patrick’s Day green — jumped out of the bushes, laughing and waving a bright blue “happy b-day” sign festooned with stickers.

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Other families in less tight-knit neighborhoods reached into the ether for birthday help.

On Twitter, @LearNonsense tweeted her desire: “Twitter, I have a request. It’s my daughter, Rosie’s 5th birthday tomorrow. But my partner has a fever, so we have to self-quarantine for 2 weeks. Her party is canceled and grandparents barred. Could you send her some pics of your dogs (or animals generally) to cheer her up?”

The request got “24.5k” responses and counting. Happy birthday, Rosie!

And @jessemodz reached out on behalf of his oldest son Nixon. “Today is his 7th birthday. He is very upset he can’t go to school, and even more upset that he can’t have a proper birthday party. He has to do home reading today how about we make his reading all the happy birthday comments? Put a smile on his face!”

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It worked. Modz later tweeted that Nixon is “the number one trending thing in Calgary right now. Thanks.”

And as for Jack Henry?

“He thought he was going to go out and count shamrocks,” Iverson said. “He had no idea what was going on. When he realized it was all for him, he was happy. He said, ‘This is the best.’”

Happy birthday, Jack Henry. And many more.


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