This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

Mason McMilin didn’t quite understand why his mom, Kim McMilin, sent him to the front yard with a foam finger taped to a long wooden dowel on his birthday, April 10.
A steady stream of about 30 cars drove past Mason, with friends, family and church members waving signs and yelling birthday wishes.

“He told me it was the best birthday he’s ever had,” McMilin said.

In mid-March, Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a series of mandates enforcing social distancing protocols. The mandates restricted gatherings of anyone outside of the immediate household. No gatherings, no birthday parties.

Alaskans have had to get creative with how they celebrate.

On the morning of his birthday, McMilin and Mason made a birthday cake and had a small family celebration. When Kim McMilin explained to Mason they couldn’t have a party to celebrate his eighth birthday, she said he understood.

Then, the foam finger came out and Mason was sent outside, where McMilin said he was able to do “no-touch” high-fives with his friends and family. After the drive-by birthday, McMilin collected all of the homemade signs friends and family made for Mason, and put them up on his wall.

“It goes to show that we live in the best place,” McMilin said. “Not to say people in the Lower 48 couldn’t pull off what we did, but it was pretty magical and better than any gift we could have given him.”

McMilin got the idea of a drive-by birthday party from someone she knew who did a similar thing. She decided to call local family and friends and ask if they would drive by, honk “and maybe wave” to Mason on the day of his birthday. She would let it be a surprise for her son, to help make his birthday, which fell in the middle of a global pandemic, a little more special.

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