The birthday cakes

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By Guy Lepage, Red Cross Disaster Management Volunteer
“Do you think you can get a birthday cake for my wife?”
Under normal circumstances, the answer would be simple.
But these were not normal circumstances.
The man who made the request and his family were under quarantine at CFB Trenton. They were among the first two plane loads of Canadians brought home by the Canadian government from the epicenter of the coronavirus in China.
I was a member of the Red Cross team tasked with delivering meals and supplies to travellers restricted to their rooms in three hotels on the base for 14 days.
Lesley Gay was also working in the hotel where the man stayed with his wife and young son.
The birthday cakes“When the gentleman requested the cake, I was really excited,” said Lesley, who became a Red Cross volunteer three years ago. “His life was turned upside down and I figured if he could surprise his wife, it would certainly bring him and his family so much happiness in these uncertain times.”
That sense of excitement was shared among volunteers and staff working on this deployment.
Heather Cousins also helped deliver meals to the man’s family. He approached her as well and told her he had called the phone number travelers were instructed to use to place special orders.
“This was a very special request because his was wife was turning 40. He had placed his order, but he wanted to speak to someone face to face about it,” said Heather, a veteran Red Cross volunteer with nearly a decade’s worth of experience. “I told him that we would try to do everything we could to make it happen.”
Two of the volunteers who were responsible for making special purchases at Walmart were also aware of the request. They were waiting for permission to make what would become a very special purchase.
“We first got word of the birthday a couple days before, although the request for the actual cake took a day or so to actually come through. My initial reaction was that I was happy to be a part of something so special under such different circumstances,” said Kaitlin Hawley, who started volunteering for Red Cross18 months before being deployed to Trenton.
“When I came across the cake with balloons on it, I thought it was perfect, and of course I couldn’t forget about the candles! I’m so happy that I got to be a part of something so pure, and I think it represents what being a humanitarian is all about.”
“I remember feeling happy to be a part of the team who made that happen. We were able to provide something very small that would bring some normalcy to the people waiting in quarantine,” said fellow logistics volunteer Lyn Forrest who was on her first deployment with the Red Cross.
Not knowing that our logistics team was working on getting a cake for the occasion, a decision was made by our field operations team to ask me to buy one. I was joined by veteran volunteer Lisa Whebell, who was also responsible for delivering meals to the man’s family.
“We were so excited that we could purchase the cake and bring it to the quarantine area for a birthday surprise,” says Lisa who has been with the Red Cross for 13 years.
The man who wanted to surprise his wife told her they had to go to the room for a meeting. When they arrived, they were greeted by five Red Cross volunteers and not only one, but two birthday cakes, complete with candles.
“We sang happy birthday and there were tears in her eyes for sure,” says Heather. “She was very surprised, and I explained to her how intentional her husband was in asking for this and how much he wanted to do something special for her birthday, even in quarantine. It was such a great feeling to be able to do this for this family in a difficult situation and a morale booster for all of us, travelers and volunteers.”
Lisa agreed. “She was so overwhelmed that Red Cross actually took the time, to acknowledge her birthday and make it special for her. She talked for days after about it and said she will never forget what Red Cross did for her and that it would always be a special memory!”
“When I found out the great news, I was overjoyed. A small act of kindness brought so much joy to this family and I was so proud that the Red Cross team pulled this off! This truly was a team effort.”
I have been volunteering with the Red Cross for 15 years and this was the first time a birthday cake was near the top of the essential supplies list.
Providing the cake was the highlight for me on this deployment. It brought a sense of normalcy to a family which had been through so much. It was an emotional moment.

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