Times have been tough. The constant fear of the conronavirus outbreak and social isolation has been hard on everyone...especially the younger generation.
No school, no social activities, no hanging out with your best friends, and staying isolated inside your home all day has been the norm for most every teenager in America.
Now, getting together with your friends to celebrate your birthday is impossible.
On Tuesday, March 31, Jilliann Mitchell was suppose to be celebrating her 15th birthday — but the threat of the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to those plans.
“Jilliann will tell you she had the ‘it is what it is’ mentality of not having a birthday party, but I know it was bothering her,” he mom, Lisa Mitchell stated. “Every other birthday she has had, there have been lots of people. Her whole life she has had a pretty decent size birthday party. She tried to play it off pretty cool. It was bothering her and she even asked if she could invite a few friends over. I was trying to joke with her as much as I could to take the attention off the situation.
“I’ve made comments my daughter’s whole life in different situations, ‘what are we going to do, take away your birthday?’,” Lisa Mitchell joked. “This year with the COVID-19 outbreak, she said ‘what am I going to do for my birthday?’, and I said they actually took away your birthday. We were kinda making a joke about it. I told her there is nothing we can do because we can’t go anywhere with all the social distancing and everything.”
However, Lisa Mitchell found a way to pull off a surprise birthday party for her 15-year-old daughter, and still be able to adhere to the social distancing mandate.
It dawned on Lisa Mitchell that she could utilize her second family — her Jeep club friends — to help pull off a social-distancing surprise birthday party for her 15-year-old daughter. The Lake Cumberland Jeep Peep is a local Jeep club started by Lisa Mitchell a couple of years ago.
“The Lake Cumberland Jeep Peeps get together quite often,” Lisa Mitchell explained. “We meet every so often to go four-wheeling or mudding and we do charity work in the community. My daughter loves Jeeps and knows most of the members in the local club.
“So it hit me, the one thing we can do is something with the Jeep group,” Lisa Mitchell recalled. “I thought we could all meet up at the Somerset Mall, since the stores are closed right now.
“Back in my day, we used to cruise the mall and we thought it was pretty cool,” Lisa Mitchell laughed. “I put a message on our Jeep group page to see if anyone was available to come to the mall to surprise Jilliann (for her birthday). We can beep, yell and do whatever, but we can’t get out of our vehicles.The one thing I can say about our Jeep group is that if you ask them to do something, they are pretty dedicated about doing it.
“And most everyone was up for it,” she continued. “It wasn’t just the Jeep group, but it was also friends and family too.”
The day of Jilliann’s birthday, her mom greeted her daughter with a birthday cake that looked like a roll of toilet paper. Lisa and Steve Mitchell told their newly turned 15-year-old daughter ‘Happy Birthday’ and told her they would take her out to eat.
“We told her we were going to take her out for her birthday,” Lisa Mitchell recalled. “She asked where we going to go with nothing open, and I told her we will have to go through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru.”
As the Mitchell family drove down U.S. 27, heading south, they slowly made their way towards the Somerset Mall. Unbeknownst to Jilliann Mitchell, a group of about 30 Jeeps awaited her arrival at the empty parking lot.
“Jilliann didn’t know about the gathering at the mall,” Lisa Mitchell stated. “She had no idea. She couldn’t figure out why I was taking her anywhere, because everything was closed. I kept making up stupid excuses like we are just going to go for a ride and I will take you through any drive-thru you want to go to.
“When we got to the mall into the turning lane, I got my phone ready to record and she knew I was up to something then,” Lisa Mitchell laughed. “All the Jeeps were around the corner of the mall. Jilliann just smiled from ear to ear because she was super surprised, happy and excited.”
As the Mitchells pulled into the Mall parking lot, a caravan of Jeeps circled around the local edifice.
“It was kinda like how we used to cruise the mall, when I was about my daughter’s age,” Lisa Mitchell laughed. “The cruising kind of brought back nostalgia for the older ones of us riding around.”
Once the Mitchell family Jeep was stopped in the middle of the parking lot, the other Jeeps circled around. Like all the other the birthday parties before, Jilliann Mitchell was surrounded by her friends and family on her special day.
“We stopped, and the other Jeeps made a semicircle around us, “ Lisa Mitchell explained. “They all struck their heads out their windows and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her.”
Lights were flashing, horns were honking, ‘Happy Birthday’ signs were being held up, and others were shouting Jilliann’s name.
“Jilliann was a little embarrassed when they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her, but it was a happy embarrassment,” her mom stated.
But for the young Jilliann Mitchell, it wasn’t so much about having a party for her birthday, as it was that she got to see her friends in person for the first time since school was postponed.
“The best part about the party was seeing everyone ... we just forgot about what is going on right now,” Lisa Mitchell reflected. “Jilliann hadn’t seen her friends, and at least three of her best friends she hadn’t seen since school let out. That was awesome for her because she had not seen them in person. That was priceless.”
“Jilliann told me out of all her birthdays, this will be one she will never forget,” Lisa Mitchell stated.
Happy Birthday Jilliann Mitchell!