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Loved ones parade at MediLodge of Alpena

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A family member of a resident at MediLodge of Alpena on Saturday displays a near-life-size cutout of a wedding picture made for their loved one.

ALPENA — Many of the residents at MediLodge of Alpena have been unable to see their loved ones since March, when visitors were restricted from entering the long-term care facility to reduce the threat of the spread of coronavirus.

On Saturday, however, residents got to see friends and family for a brief moment as MediLodge staff facilitated a drive-by parade through the driveway in front of the care home. Residents were able to give a quick wave or blow a kiss to their friends and family as they slowly drove past.

There were many smiles, tears, and cheers as the cars passed by in single file, with horns honking and hands waving.

MediLodge Director of Nursing Kristy Repke said staff decided to host the parade when some employees saw social media posts from other long-term care facilities doing similar things.

Knowing what it would mean to residents who have relied for months on phone calls, Facebook, and FaceTime to connect with families, a plan was put in place.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Residents of MediLodge of Alpena on Saturday were eager for a drive-by parade of friends and family to start so they could see family. Many residents made signs that had messages of unity, love and thanks.

“Other places were doing it and having a lot of success, so we decided to do it for the residents,” Repke said. “It doesn’t seem like the restrictions are being lifted anytime soon, so we wanted to make sure they know they are loved by their families and the community.”

Check out a video of the parade below. Viewing on mobile? Turn your device horizontal for the best viewing experience. Story continues below video.

Before the parade began, employees brought residents outdoors and lined them up, making they were distanced properly to avoid virus spread. They chatted and took photos of the residents during the event to celebrate it.

Residents had colorful balloons tied to their seats, wore crowns or wigs, and held up signs with messages to those who drove through. When a loved one was spotted, “I love yous” and “I miss yous” were exchanged, which brought tears to some.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Residents and staff of MediLodge of Alpena wait for a parade of friends and family to drive through the parking lot on Saturday.

Mike and Sally Donajkowski drove through to see Mike Donajkowski’s mother, Irene Donajkowski, who was seated at the side of the driveway. Sally Donajkowski said it has been difficult to not be able to visit her mother-in-law, but said MediLodge staff has been supportive and makes sure updates are frequent.

“We live a half-mile down the road, and we would be in here every day to see her, but we can’t do that, anymore,” Mike Donajkowski said. “The staff has been calling us twice a day to give us updates, and they have been fantastic.”

An Alpena Police Department car led the parade down Long Rapids Road and through the driveway, the officer flashing his lights and sounding his sirens as residents waved and held up their signs.

An Alpena fire truck followed. The Fire Department’s mascot, Sparky, jumped off the back of the truck to pose for pictures and say hello to the residents.

Most of the vehicles had personalized signs held by the passengers or taped on the side of the vehicles. Some people fully decorated their vehicles.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz MediLodge of Alpena allowed a dog to say hello to residents who were waiting for a drive-by parade of friends and family to start on Saturday.

Some of the cars looped around Long Rapids Road and made a second pass through as an encore and to grab another quick hello and goodbye.

“It was a very good day.” Repke said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena Fire Department mascot Sparky takes time out of his day on Saturday to visit residents of MediLodge of Alpena.

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