The hardships of life have continued in Milwaukee, even under the restrictions brought on by the devastating coronavirus. But for one local youth struggling with her health, the Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) organized a special event to bring the sick girl some joy on April 30.
Fire trucks, police cars and horses, ambulances, city vehicles, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Spider-Man, a Disney princess, and others participated in a parade on Milwaukee’s south side to celebrate the 13th birthday for Jayla Christina Rodriguez. Drive-by parades are the one safe way of showing love and support during an era of strict social distancing. For young Jayla, who was diagnosed with a terminal condition, it was an effort to lift her spirits.
“As you might imagine, we have been getting many requests for fire department birthday drive–bys, so many that we can’t fulfill. However, when Jayla’s aunt called me, we wanted to do something for this brave young lady,” said Lieutenant Michael Ball, Community Relations Director for the Milwaukee Fire Department. “Jayla has been fighting cancer off and on since she was 5 years old. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been going well and she is now home in hospice care.”
Lieutenant Ball wanted to get others involved to help make the parade more memorable for Jayla, so he reached out to Milwaukee County Transit, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, Milwaukee DPW, Bell Ambulance, the U.S. Army, and the Milwaukee Police Department.
As the dozens of vehicles rode around the block in front of Jayla’s home, she watched from her bed and waved back through the window. Family and friends also gathered on the front lawn, holding signs of support and cheering for Jayla with love. Jayla beat her cancer twice before the age of 10, but it recently returned as a brain tumor.
“The city I was born and raised in has stepped up and done something amazing for my baby. It’s just beautiful,” said Jayla’s father, Antonio Rodriguez. “A bunch of strangers have done something for my daughter, and it’s just overwhelming to take in the love that they’ve put together. My heart can’t say how thankful I am, especially at a time when it’s just not my daughter going through something, but this whole world is.”
Claudio Martinez and Tim Holte