Grant County’s soon-to-be graduates are facing stunning losses as once-in-a-lifetime events such as graduations, proms and spring sports have been upended by the coronavirus.
Taylor Allen, a senior, who turned 18 April 12, will miss out on rites of passage and end-of-year celebrations, including her final year of softball, prom and a party for her 18th birthday. Her mother, Marissa Williams, however, was determined not to let a global pandemic keep her from celebrating her daughter’s 18th birthday with family, friends and the community.
Enter the coronavirus caravan.
Easter Sunday, Williams, husband Zach Williams, son Jhett, daughter Drewsey and Allen pulled into the Seventh Street Complex. Minutes later, Allen’s eyes widened. Her face lit up in surprise as a line of 26 cars, trucks, and jeeps with banners and homemade signs turned into the complex to celebrate Allen’s 18th birthday.
Friends, family, coaches, teachers and well-wishers looped around the complex parking lot multiple times blaring car horns. Friends made homemade signs that read “Happy Birthday Tate, I love you” and dropped off gift bags, cards and cake. Another friend, Billy Holliday, dropped off a homemade decorated jar filled with the hand-written memories of Allen’s closest friends with the inscription “to always make you smile.”
Williams said she texted family and friends of Allen’s the night before to wish her happy birthday by looping through the parking lot and that Alllen was completely surprised.
“Taylor didn’t have any idea we were doing this, and as the cars started coming down the road, she was teary-eyed. It was moving to see so many people there to support her,” Williams said.
Williams said the stay-at-home order and school closure has been hard for Allen as a senior.
“She didn’t realize the last time she walked out of GU many Thursdays ago, that it would be her last,” Williams said.
Williams said her family held out hope that after the first few weeks that the efforts to contain the virus would have been sufficient enough for life to get back to some normalcy.
Williams said, while she was not surprised by the orders from Gov. Brown to move classes online and close the schools, she was still holding out hope for Allen.
“We weren’t surprised with the announcement, but we were trying to be optimistic for Taylor,” she said.
Allen, who signed with Mt. Hood Community College to play softball in the fall, is hopeful she will get the chance to compete in a couple of softball tournaments with Grant Union to have some sort of a senior year with her high school team.
“I think it’s important to realize that there’s a bigger problem occurring in the world, and if missing those (senior year milestones) means saving lives, then it’s worth it,” Allen said in an email.
Williams said, as a family, they are strict about the stay-at-home orders and, at times, the isolation can be difficult for the three kids, but she and her husband keep the kids active, so they are not going absolutely “bonkers” at home.
“It has been a big adjustment for all of us. We miss seeing our family and friends and being at Seventh Street playing ball or going to softball games on the weekends, but we have spent a lot of quality time with our kids,” Williams said. “It is a small blessing I get with my senior daughter, a little extra time before she leaves for college.”