When Tina Behagel broke her leg back in March, she came to Life Care Center of Valparaiso, where her sister Cathy Ellis serves as Marketing Director, to rehab and rebuild her strength. However, neither of them expected a pandemic would isolate Behagel and the other residents for months.
While many businesses are opening their doors, rehab and nursing facilities such as Life Care Center of Valparaiso are still on lockdown – playing it safe to ensure the health and safety of everyone inside. That posed a bit of a problem for Ellis when planning Behagel’s 50th birthday celebration for June 3, as she wanted to make sure her sister could see other friends and family for the first time in months.
“I thought, since we can’t have a big party, let’s do a drive-by parade,” Ellis said. “Tina lives in a group home over at Opportunity Enterprises, and a lot of the folks from there are going to drive by in addition to family, friends, and neighbors.”
Ellis and the rest of the team at Life Care Center of Valparaiso found all kinds of ways to keep Behagel and other residents active and social during the pandemic, but everyone was excited for a change of pace.
“It’s been difficult,” Ellis said. “Just being able to be out and see other people for a change is special. Really, it’s a great chance to celebrate. We’re having a little party inside, and all of the staff’s been busy decorating Tina’s room.”
The parade was a surprise to Behagel, and no one let it slip before the day of the celebrations.
“It was a big surprise,” she said. “And it’s so nice out!”
When the cars started rolling through the parking lot, many had signs and other decorations adorning their doors and windows. One driver even stuck a big pair of “5-0” balloons on the their roof. Others brought gift bags and stuffed animals for Behagel.
Ellis had asked the Porter County Sheriff’s department if they could spare a car to guide the proceedings. They surprised everyone by parading through with a handful of SUVs, lights and sirens going. The sisters were stunned by the support.
“I’m almost speechless,” Ellis said. “I’m just so thrilled for Tina and thankful for all the love that people showed to her.”
Behagel, in tears, summarized it simply.
To learn more about Life Care Center of Valparaiso, visit lcca.com/locations/in/valparaiso/.