BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ COVID-19 has put a serious damper on a lot of celebrations, but local residents have figured out a way to give many young people (and one 99-year-old) a special birthday they will never forget.

Over the past few weeks, residents may have noticed lines of vehicles -- some decorated with balloons, stuffed animals, or other festive items. When the lines start moving, horns start honking, and police join the parade.

No one exits their vehicle or hands out cards or gifts, however.

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"We have got a list of safety considerations...with every event listed," said Bernards Township Patrol Officer Tracy Baldassare, who co-manages the Facebook page that sets up the parades.

The parties are organized and scheduled through the Facebook group, Bernards Twp Drive-By Joy: Coming Together While We're Apart.

Parades for April now being scheduled

The Facebook group is now setting up parades for April, Baldassare said. She said that resident Jocelyn O'Brien, a co-administrator for the Facebook account, schedules the birthday parades. She said that she coordinates police participation in the event.

The parades generally are set up for those celebrating their birthday who are age 12 or younger. However, in special circumstances, parades are set up for older residents _ including one 99-year-old, she said.

Among the rules, which the participants receive when they seek to set up a parade, are that no one is supposed to congregate outside their vehicles (other than the birthday person and their immediate family), no one is supposed to exit or hang out of their cards, and no contact by handing out birthday gifts.

"People have been really following the rules," Baldassare said.

As of last Saturday, she estimated that approximately 35 or 40 parades had been held already after being arranged through the Facebook page.

Baldassare said it is touching to note how many people join the birthday parades even if they don't know the person celebrating their birthday.