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Virginia Beach man with disability celebrates special birthday amid COVID-19

Posted at 9:26 PM, Jul 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-25 23:09:52-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The Virginia Beach community came together Saturday evening to celebrate a birthday party in the age of COVID-19.

Friends drove by Tom McMahan’s home to wish him a happy birthday. On Saturday, Tom turned 49 years old.

“Made me feel happy,” said Tom McMahan.

This year’s birthday celebration holds a deeper meaning for Tom, who has a developmental disability.

“We just wanted to bring some smiles to this time and some music,” said Becky McMahan, Tom’s mother.

The party had all the elements of any other celebration. There was music, dancing, water balloons, and gifts from friends.

Tom’s friend of 20 years, Damon Martone, 43, stopped by to give him a fishing rod with a balloon of a fish attached to the pole.

“We’ve been balloon fishing for many years at parties,” joked Joe Martone, Damon’s dad.

The only difference with Saturday’s party was that CDC guidelines of social distancing were in full effect.

“Usually, he has his friends and we go to the movies and have a lunch or picnic,” Becky McMahan said. “We’re just such huggers and it’s bittersweet to see our friends faces, but then not to be able to hug them.”

Becky McMahan said having special needs can be somewhat isolating, and the stay-at-home order has been tough for the 49-year-old.

But this celebration, marking another year of life with friends and family, is proof the virus can’t dampen Tom’s spirits.

“Tom is just a real party animal as you could see,” said Becky McMahan. “He could have danced all night, although you’re yawning; you’re getting a little worn out here.”

The night ended with one final encore of “Happy Birthday” for the birthday guy.

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