WAYNE, NJ – On a cool Sunday evening, with the light of the day fading behind the trees, a parade of cars, fire trucks from Wayne Company #5 and ambulances from the Wayne Memorial First Aid Squad began a trek through the maze of streets surrounding Packanack Lake.  Their goal was to parade past the houses of all the first responders and front-line workers who live in the area and show them they are loved and appreciated.

Lori Kohles, a Packanacker and registered nurse conceived of the idea and recruited President of the Packanack Lake Association and Wayne Town Councilwoman, Jill Sasso to help her make the vision of this parade a reality.

“There are so many of us who really wanted to do something for our neighbors and show our support for these people who put themselves on the line every day,” said Kohles.  “So, we asked people in the lake community to nominate the healthcare workers and first responders in the area to create a list of who we wanted to go to. The response was amazing.”

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Sasso used her connections to recruit support from Wayne Fire Company #5 and the Wayne Memorial First Aid Squad who were glad to be a part of the operation.

“Not only did they want to participate in the parade, but they helped us with the most difficult part of mapping out the route,” said Sasso.  “Because of their help, we decided to go beyond just Packanack Lake. We did their whole territory. It was quite an undertaking.”

Jocelyn Tablazon is a nurse at St. Barnabas and lives with her boyfriend and fellow nurse Jonathan Pappalardo in Packanack Lake. They were on the list and excitedly waited to welcome the parade as they drove past their house. 

TAPintoWayne spoke with Tablazon before the parade came by. She was asked why an event like this was important to those on the front lines of the pandemic.

“It can be spiritually, physically and emotionally draining with all the patients we care for,” she said. “There are times that I just have to sit in my car and gather myself before I go into work and there were times that we came home and just had to cry. I know it’s the same for all of us, so it’s nice that we have all the support of our neighbors and friends with the slump that we are in."

“It’s more than just saying Thank You; it’s the physical act of this parade,” she said. “How much everyone just went out of their way to say that they understand what we are going through means a lot.  It's just amazing.”

The parade of thirty or so vehicles, led by Company #5's Fire Trucks and the Wayne First Aid Squad's emergency vehicles with lights blazing and sirens blaring, left the fire house and traversed the narrow roads around the lake and up into the Tall Oaks and Manor area as well.  Most of the vehicles were locals who decorated their cars with signs expressing their love and gratitude.

The route was shared along with the approximate time of arrival at each location.  Families came out into the chilly dusky twilight to wave at the parade as it went past, and everyone shared their biggest smiles.

“There are so many people on the front lines of this global pandemic working long hours away from their own families. This was a show of support for these heroes,” said Sasso.

“Right now, people are tired of sheltering and tired of being isolated, and I think this parade really showed that we are all in this together,” said Kohles. “It’s about thanking and appreciating the sacrifices that we all are making, and especially for our first responders who put their lives on the line for us and have to deal with the sickness and the death on a daily basis.”

Kohles wanted to share her thanks to all involved.  “Everyone wanted to do their parts and the parade was epic!” she said. “I especially want to thank Jill [Sasso] who really made this all happen. She is just amazing; what she does for our community, she’s unbelievable.