Shortly before 4 p.m. Monday along the 100 block of North Bentz Street in Frederick, a cube-shaped birthday balloon sat on a porch, and birthday flags sat draped over the black railing and fencing.

Those were a few signs that it was Maddie McDermott's 17th birthday — but her mother, Kara had a grand surprise.

Several cars were parked in the old Safeway parking lot on Seventh Street, preparing for a car parade down North Bentz to shower Maddie with affection, presents and happy birthday wishes. 

Maddie didn't know it, but once she stepped outside on the sidewalk, she had a hunch something was happening.

"I know that face," she said to her mom as Kara cracked a smile. 

Moments later, Gov. Thomas Johnson High School softball coach Paul Jennings led the parade in his red SUV, with dozens of cars full of softball teammates and friends from since Maddie's childhood.

Jennings said the parade was to show support for Maddie. The high school softball season was canceled this year, and her teammates and others wanted to let her know they care about her.

"We can't physically be there," Jennings said, alluding to social distancing and the restriction of large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. "But this is kind of the nature of how we celebrate birthdays [now] ... it's great, there's kids from the team, and kids from her childhood growing up, so a little bit of everyone from all walks of life."

Kara said she got the idea for the parade from social media, and more than 20 cars were parked before the parade, driving the short distance between there and the 100 block of North Bentz Street. She credited Maddie's longtime friend Lydia Lyons with helping organize the surprise.

Jennings said it was a little tricky to keep more than 20 cars together going down Bentz Street, so he tried to drive slowly through green lights and stay stopped at red lights. Some Frederick Police officers also drove by, blaring their sirens and wishing Maddie a happy birthday.

Shortly before those police officers and friends started honking their car horns on Bentz Street, Kara said it was great to see the community pull together and show support — especially since Maddie's dad, Joe, died a month ago at age 51. The death was not coronavirus related.

Maddie said it was nice to see the show of support. Her friends yelled happy birthday through sunroofs and windows of the cars, and waved happy birthday signs and gave various presents through their car windows.

"He's probably smiling right now," Maddie said of her father after the parade had concluded.

It's been tough to stay connected with her friends and softball teammates, and it is sad to not see the seniors off on their final season, Maddie said. But the parade definitely helped, she added.

"We've all kept in touch through social media ... it's nice seeing all of them in person, it's just not the same through FaceTime," she said.

"I had no idea all these people were going to be here," Maddie said. "It was all such a surprise."

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(5) comments


Is the parade phase over with yet? Where are the masks, social distancing, etc?


Congrats on getting a parade for something that you are expected to do!


Jeez, what a Debbie downer. "Expected to do"? What, reach 17? This was a fantastic and memorable gesture, in keeping with the rules, to celebrate a teammates milestone birthday. Great work folks!


Perhaps "you what" neglected to read the article. This young lady lost her father one month ago. It's appears that her friends and teammates were attempting to provide a bit of happiness in what must be a very, very sad time in her young have lost one of her parents. The "parade" was the sweetest gesture imaginable.


you are expected to have a birthday?

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