It was a surprise that was 80 years coming.
When crossing guard Alec Childress took his usual position on the corner last week in Wilmette, Illinois, he probably thought it was just an ordinary day, albeit his 80th birthday.
But what happened next was anything but ordinary.
According to CNN, when a large crowd began gathering Childress thought some sort of school event must be going on when, in fact, the party was for him. Over 100 people turned out to celebrate Childress’ 80th birthday and to thank him for everything that he’s done for them over the years.
Childress has worked as a crossing guard since 2005 when he retired from construction work and those who he’s greeted every morning came from far and wide to say thank you, reports CNN:
“Children who had moved on to middle school and high school came back to tell him happy birthday. One girl even came by on her way to London for college because she wanted to give Childress a hug before she left.”
When the current and former students surprised him last Thursday many created signs with Childress’s signature catchphrase “Peace, I gotcha!” on it, which the guard is known for saying to kids when greeting them every day.
Childress told CNN he was blown away by the surprise, saying: “It’s not like I’m a professor or a teacher or something. I’m just a crossing guard. For them to go out like they did to put on a huge party for me, it was mind-blowing. It was something that was hard to explain.”
Childress is known in the community for his positivity and joy that he shares and, according to CNN, that affection flows both ways with Childress saying:
“I receive something on that corner that you can’t buy,” he said. “The love that I receive on that corner? You just can’t buy it.”
Happy 80th Birthday to 9th & Lake Crossing Guard Alec Childress. Thank you to the students and their families for the wonderful celebration. pic.twitter.com/gjUKSNirRZ
— Wilmette Police Department (@WilmettePolice) October 10, 2019