Maple Ridge’s community acted quickly on Friday to replace a stolen boy’s birthday gift with an outpouring of drive-by surprises and support on Friday.
Resident Ashley Hallum planned a grand gesture for her stepson Quinten, a “loving, intelligent boy” who turned 11 years old May 22.
For that, she enlisted the help of local rental service CardTheYard and owner Danielle Spraggs, who crept up to the family home last Thursday night to place big bold letters on the lawn.
“Happy Birthday Quinten” they read, with the number 11, stars, a maple leaf, and soccer ball.
What she didn’t know was that two other people were also going to pay the home a visit – to steal parts of the child’s birthday surprise.
It wasn’t until the next morning that she found out.
The family, including Quinten’s two young sisters, rushed to their front lawn, following a hint from Mom.
“I knew right away that pieces were missing,” Hallum said, describing holes in her front yard from where silver stars were supposed to be.
A large maple leaf and balloons were also removed from the elaborate display.
At first the mother was confused, thinking maybe gusts of wind had something to do with the missing pieces. But home surveillance footage revealed two people had stolen the lawn decor the night before.
“He didn’t get to see it before they did this,” Hallum mourned, having to report the incident to RCMP amidst celebrating her Quinten’s special day.
Outpouring of birthday surprises and support
Hallum then posted the footage to Facebook, asking for the public’s help to identify the suspects and recovering the decor for CardTheYard.
What followed was truly unexpected.
Hallum began getting messages from neighbours, as well as Lower Mainland residents from as far as Abbotsford, who asked if they could drive-by with some birthday surprises for Quinten.
“We had at least seven deliveries today,” the mom told The News.
The day full of deliveries amounted to more than a dozen helium balloons, bags of gifts like LEGO sets, a robot, squirt guns, and other backyard toys.
Hallum – who wanted to go above and beyond for her son’s birthday considering it was her first year cancer-free – said Quinten was most excited about the opportunity to make new friends.
“Even though there’s a couple of bad people, there are so many more good ones,” the mother recalled the child saying.
Along with, “Maybe since everyone now knows there’s an 11 year old boy living here, I will make new friends.”
Hallum, who remains immunocompromised, said the COVID-19 pandemic has kept the family in strict self-isolation.
“I just fought stage three colon cancer for the past two years,” the mom explained.
“And because of chemo we have to be very overcautious, the virus could hit me so much harder.”
Hallum told The News she continues to count her blessings, which include being able to enjoy pain-free days with her three kids.
“After cancer, birthdays are a big deal,” Mom said.
“This is the first birthday in the past three years that I don’t feel pain or lethargic. I’m able to give him my full attention. I’m just so lucky.”
“In these times, with COVID-19, it’s a really good time for Quinten to remember that there’s tons of good stuff out there,” Mom said.
Another measure of kindness that added to their day, was Spraggs, CardTheYard’s small business owner, did not not holding the family fiscally responsible for the theft.
And it just so happens that on Saturday night, one of the people responsible returned to Hallum’s doorstep offering words of apology and the stolen items, Hallum said.