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Police officers surprised a special-needs boy at his birthday party in Oklahoma
His mother had worried that nobody was going to show up
Mom: "To see them interact ... was truly, truly amazing"
If you are throwing a party at your house, the last thing you want to see are police knocking at your door.
But for one mother in Yukon, Oklahoma, it made her day.
“It was more of a happy excitement. Joyful. Any positive word you can think of.”
Twenty-eight-year old Terra Hubbard was throwing a birthday party earlier this month for her special-needs son.
She sent out between 60 and 80 invitations and was expecting a large turnout. She thought her son Brayden, who was turning three, was going to have a great birthday. But the night before, one by one, people started to cancel.
“I’d get, ‘Oh I can’t come. This just came up,’” she recalled. She says the whole guest list just “crumbled.”
Hubbard was afraid the real reason was because Brayden is autistic. She was pretty down about it and ready to call the whole thing off.
“I know people run from autistic kids,” she said.
But because she had already spent money on the cake and had put up decorations with her son’s favorite characters from the “Cars” movies, Hubbard decided to make the best of it with some family who did come over.
But an anonymous call to the Yukon Police department changed everything.
An unusual request
Yukon is a suburb of Oklahoma City with about 30,000 residents. It’s considered one of the safest communities in the area, a reputation that recently drew Hubbard and her family.
The town is known for its annual Czech festival and for being the hometown of country music icon Garth Brooks.
Beyond the Call of Duty
When the anonymous call came into the non-emergency line, it was assigned to Lt. Curtis Lemmings, who was out on patrol.
Lemmings spoke with the caller, and she told him that while she knew this wasn’t something that they do every day, she was hoping they could go by and visit Brayden’s birthday party.
Capt. Matt Hofer, a 17-year veteran of the Yukon police, says their department is community oriented, and they pride themselves on that kind of service.
“We change people’s lights (bulbs) in their houses,” he said. “We unlock their cars if they lock their keys in them. We get their cats out of trees.”
But Hofer needed to make sure the call was legitimate. So he sent Lemmings to drive by the house. Lemmings saw there were birthday decorations on Hubbard’s front door, and called the captain.
“Hey, what do we do?” Lemmings asked.
Hofer felt he needed to personally check it out, and make sure it was safe for his officers. He didn’t know how he would be received since Terra Hubbard hadn’t made the call.
So Hofer drove over and knocked on the door.
A knock on the door
For many people, having an officer knock on the door unsolicited is their worst fear.
When Hofer approached Hubbard’s front door, he made sure she knew there wasn’t a problem.
“I heard there was a birthday party for Brayden today,” Hofer said to Hubbard.
Yes, she told him. Hofer asked if he and some other officers could participate in the event.
Instantly Hubbard’s demeanor changed, Hofer said, from gut-wrenching fear that something had happened to a loved to, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Calling all cars
It was shift change at the department. At 2 p.m. the night shift comes in and overlaps for a few hours with the day shift. It had been a quiet Saturday.
Hofer and Lemmings put out a call for any officers who were available to come to the party.
Hofer says that while he was standing in the house, officers just started showing up.
“One after another,” he said, “until the whole room was full of police.”
Nine in total. Including the entire evening shift.
Lt. Zach Roberson, one of the officers who answered Hofer’s call to join the party, said the large police presence attracted curiosity from the neighbors.
One neighbor kept peeking around the corner of his house, wanting to know what was going on. Roberson told him they were there to surprise young Brayden and help celebrate his birthday.
A boy and his cars
Brayden Hubbard loves cars – especially the characters from the Disney movies of the same name.
His mom had gotten lots of presents with the “Cars” theme and handed each officer a wrapped package from the gift table to give to Brayden.
Brayden’s vocabulary is limited, and the 3-year-old was shy at first. But the officers weren’t deterred.
Lemmings, who has a young child of his own, was able to slowly draw out Brayden, as the two gave each other high fives and fist bumps.
“To see them interact like that,” said Hubbard, “was truly, truly amazing.”
But Brayden really came out of shell when Lemmings let him sit in his police cruiser.
Brayden sat in the driver’s seat, pushing the various buttons, and was amazed at all the sounds the car made.
A memorable day
Although the officers were there for less than an hour, many of them say it left a deep impression.
“It was great. It’s an experience that we are never going to forget,” said Roberson.
“At three years old, you don’t know if Brayden is going to remember this or not,” Roberson said, “but he is always going to have photos of it.”
Terra Hubbard hopes it will leave as much as an impression on Brayden as it has with her.
“They have done something that will be with me for the rest of my life,” she said while tearing up. “Something I can talk to my son about the rest of his life.”
While Hofer says it’s all part of the job of being a policeman, he has been surprised by how the story has spread around the world.
“I’m a little taken back by the amount of press it has received,” he said, “but at the same time I have a little pride too, because these are awesome guys that I work with and work for. And it makes me feel really good that we came together on this day and accomplished this.”