With just one day to go until Shaylee Sosebee’s 12th birthday, things weren’t looking good.
With COVID-19 still on the rise and a standing order from the state government for citizens to avoid all unnecessary contact with the outside world, it looked like Sosebee would be stuck at home in Dawson County, celebrating her birthday without friends and extended family for the first time in her life.
"I thought it wouldn’t be over by the end of the year and I wouldn't be able to see my best friend or anything," Sosebee said
But Sosebee never needed to worry, because behind the scenes her mom Kristina was formulating a plan that would surprise daughter for her birthday while keeping everyone safe from COVID-19 — A surprise birthday parade through the family’s neighborhood, with cars filled with close friends, family, first responders and even a Dawson County Firetruck.
Shaylee Sosebee 12th Birthday Parade
"She's accustomed to having a birthday party like a lot of little girls are and they haven't been in school, they haven't seen their friends in months now, and I just felt really bad,” Kristina Sosebee said on Friday. “I felt bad for all the kids right now, because they just miss everybody."
Sosebee said that she first got the idea when she saw a video of a similar event in a neighboring county. Knowing the community spirit of Dawson County, she knew that there would be plenty of volunteers to give her daughter the birthday she deserved.
"I thought it would be really fun to surprise her and embarrass her and so I contacted Sheriff Jeff Johnson and he said 'absolutely,’” she said. “[Johnson] rounded up the fire department and the first responders and we just made it happen."
On Wednesday, April 23, one day before Shaylee’s birthday, they set the plan in motion, lining up cars outside the Sosenee’s neighborhood and shepherding the family outside, under the guise of enjoying the nice weather.
"I told her one of our cousins was coming over ... and I was like "let’s go sit outside, it's so nice,’” Sosebee said. “That's when I got the text, 'we're coming in the neighborhood.’"
When the sirens started going off, Shaylee says she wasn't sure what was going on and thought there might be a fire or other type of emergency in the neighborhood.
"I thought a house was on fire and I was like, 'they sure are moving slow for a house to be on fire,'" she said.
Then she heard the people yelling her name and saw the “Happy Birthday Girl” and “Happy Birthday Shalita We Love You!!” posters, and everything clicked.
Shaylee said that the whole experience was totally overwhelming, and seeing everyone come out to see her brought tears to her eyes.
"I want to say thank you to everyone for coming. It was really overwhelming and it made me so excited to see everyone,” Shaylee said on Friday.
"I'm just so grateful and I just love Dawsonville," Kristina chimed in. "When somebody needs something, the whole community comes together, I think it's great."
The bar has now been set pretty high for birthdays, Shaylee said. Next year her mom will have to work pretty hard to top this surprise.
“I don't think she's ever done that good of a surprise before,” she said with a laugh.