Sirens screamed and airhorns blasted as the fire engine and ambulance turned into a Dawson County neighborhood.
Residents came to their windows, driveways and front doors to watch the huge truck drive past, lights flashing. But the emergency vehicles and first responders were not on their way to an emergency; rather, they were on their way to deliver Easter eggs and candy to Dawson County’s children.
On Saturday, April 11, Dawson County firefighters loaded their fire trucks up with candy and Easter eggs and drove all throughout the county, delivering Easter cheer to the children amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The Easter treats delivery was a collaboration between the Dawson County Fire Department, the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce and KARE for Kids. The idea for the event came together very quickly when KARE for Kids had to cancel their annual Easter egg hunt due to the recent shelter-in-place order for the state of Georgia and social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19.
“We’ve worked closely with KARE for Kids and we knew that they had to cancel their Easter egg hunt, so with that we really started brainstorming on Wednesday and we came up with the candy toss,” Dawson County Fire Chief Danny Thompson said. “We worked with the Department of Public Health District 2 office and ran the scenario by then of how we wanted to achieve this and they thought it was a great idea.”
Once the idea was approved, the county started pushing it out on Thursday on various social media platforms and gathering what they would need to make it happen.
Chamber staff stuffed 2400 Ziplock bags full of candy and emergency services stuffed another 1000 bags.KARE for Kids provided Easter eggs filled with candy and small toys, and the Chamber of Commerce gathered bags, crayons and coloring sheets and copies of the Family Connection resource guide.
When Saturday arrived, the firemen loaded their trucks with all the treats and drove through local neighborhoods, throwing the candy and eggs to waiting children through the windows so as to abide by proper social distancing guidelines. Firefighters wore face masks and gloves, and no hand-to-hand contact occurred.
Thompson said that the goal was simply to spread joy in the community, despite this year’s Easter celebrations being different from what they usually are.
“It’s an ability for us to bring some positive when people are out of work and when they’re not being able to participate in traditional Easter and Passover activities,” Thompson said. “We really just want to bring a smile to a few kids even if it’s just for five or 10 minutes - that’s the goal today.”
Representatives from both the Chamber of Commerce and KARE for Kids helped with restocking the fire trucks and handing out candy to children who didn’t live in neighborhoods and instead came to the fire station parking lot.
“The egg toss truly epitomizes the spirit of our small town,” Dawson County Chamber of Commerce President Christie Moore said. “A nonprofit, the local business community, and county government came together to bring a little joy to our community during a difficult time.”
The firefighters themselves were excited to throw the eggs and candy, and they joked, sang, listened to music and shouted “Happy Easter!” to the hundreds of children and parents lined up along the streets of their neighborhoods.
“Firemen are always alpha people, but deep down inside they’re some of the biggest teddy bears in the world and they’d give you the shirt off their back if they could,” Thompson said. “More than anything, we just want people to have a good time and be safe today, and to let them know that the fire department hasn’t forgotten about you out there as a community.”
The community response in receiving the candy and eggs was incredibly positive, with people of all ages coming out of their houses to wave and yell “thank you!” to the passing trucks.
“At the Chamber, we were so grateful to be able to work with our partners on this awesome community event,” Moore said. “I will forever cherish the experience of helping toss eggs from a fire truck and seeing the happy faces of our citizens of all ages.”