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A wish come true: Pam’s 80th birthday miracle

June 8 was just around the corner, and Pam Sanders was approaching her 80th birthday. She wanted to celebrate this milestone in a special way. She wanted to have a birthday bash with all of her friends, but there was a problem. The COVID-19 pandemic stood in the way. Pam reasoned that folks would be reluctant to come to a birthday party and for good reason. This virus was a killer on the loose. Pam knew the disease is mainly transmitted via the airborne route when folks inhale droplets and small airborne particles, which people who are infected breath out as they talk, cough, or sneeze. She knew infected people are more likely to transmit COVID-19 when they are physically close, and that gave her cause for pause. Then she had a brainstorm. She would have a special kind of party — a cupcake party — without a guest list.

It didn’t take long for Pam to flesh out her idea. She would put a sign in her front yard and invite passersby to come in for a cupcake and help her celebrate her 80th birthday. She wouldn’t force her friends to make a decision as to whether or not they would come to a birthday party. She would simply issue a blanket invitation, and folks who saw her sign could decide secretly whether or not they felt comfortable in accepting.

It seemed like a perfect plan. Her late husband, Paul “Bud” Sanders, Madera City Councilman and twice Mayor, would have loved it. Pam knew if he had been alive, she would have had her 80th birthday party.

Paul had been a California Highway Patrolman. He had worked in the Madera CHP office for 19 years. He had also been a member of the Madera City Council for eight years, including two years as mayor. Paul loved people and never knew a stranger. He attended three different coffee groups on a daily basis. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of jokes, and, armed with those stories, made people laugh all the time. Pam was certain that if her husband had not died in 2019, she would have had her party; therefore, she would press on with a plan of her own.

There was one hitch, however. Pam’s children were not so keen on the idea. Their mother lived alone, and they thought she ought to reconsider inviting complete strangers in off the street to eat cupcakes.

In the end, however, Pam must have won them over, because they had a 3 x 5 sign made, which read, “Stop for a Cupcake.” At the top of the sign were the words, “Pam’s 80th Birthday Week.” A friend of Pam’s volunteered to bake the cupcakes for the entire week. Then on the night of June 3, Pam’s son put the sign up in her front yard, and the next day the action began.

Before the week was over, 68 people rang Pam’s doorbell to wish her a happy 80th birthday and have a cupcake. Pam knew only 25 of them; the rest were strangers.

What happened during that week was a miracle. Pam was blessed by the warm and generous heartbeat of Madera. In the face of the COVID-19 threat, people, most of whom she didn’t know, showed up to help celebrate her birthday, and they brought gifts. By the end of the week Pam had been given snow peas, blueberries, a pie from Black Bear’s, a dish towel, a face mask chain, two plants, a candle, 7 flower arrangements, 10 sets of balloons, and 2 gift certificates.

For her part, Pam gave something of herself. She sat; she listened, and she shared some part of her life with her guests. Somehow, in the face of assaults from an enemy that was terrorizing the land, Pam Sanders got her birthday wish — an 80th birthday party. It was a miracle indeed.


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