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Batesburg-Leesville community has surprise birthday parade for 18-year-old

The community came up with a way to celebrate an 18-year-old's birthday while practicing social distancing.

BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, S.C. — The Batesburg-Leesville community came together on Saturday to have a surprise parade for a girl who was turning 18. 

With the coronavirus pandemic, many social gathering have been cancelled. This includes community events and sports.

This has made it difficult to celebrate things like birthdays. 

Lee Ann Shealy wanted to celebrate her daughter's 18th birthday. 

"We threw Aliyah an 18th birthday parade. We were unable to give her a proper birthday party that we wanted to give her," said Lee Ann. "We were going to plan her a surprise birthday party with family and friends but with all of these social distancing rules with COVID-19, we were trying to come up with some different ways to celebrate a big 18th birthday."

At first, they had family and friends send cards to Aliyah to celebrate her special day.

On Facebook, Lee Ann discovered where someone in the country held a parade. She thought it was a good was to practice social distancing while also making her daughter's day special. 

"I shared it on Facebook and I set up an event with our family and friends and invited everybody to see what the turnout would be," explained Lee Ann.

Lee Ann also reached out to the Batesburg-Leesville Fire Department to lead the parade.

Aliyah said it's something she won't ever forget.

"It was a surprise," said Aliyah. "They said we were going to do something but they wouldn't tell me, like everybody in the family would tell me what we were doing."

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On Saturday morning, her family told her to get ready to go celebrate her birthday. She could tell something was up but had no idea what lied ahead.

Right before she walked out the door, she heard a siren.

When she walked outside, she could see over 30 vehicles going down the street. Many of the vehicles were decorated with balloons, streamers, and other items for Aliyah.

"The parade was even more memorable because it was something so special. You don't get that every birthday. Took a bad situation and turned it into a good one," explained Aliyah.

The 18-year-old says it's a big deal for her to have the community celebrate her special day in this way.

"It means a lot. I was, but I wasn't surprised to see some people in the parade because I know that it just reiterated to me how tight knit our community is and how many people I have out there that really love and care about me," said Aliyah.

Lee Ann says it means a lot to the family to have the community support her daughter on her birthday, especially during the coronavirus situation.

Lee Ann said, "It was good to see people out smiling and happy and just kind of forgetting about what's been going on in the world right now."

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