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A Socially Distanced Sweet 16 Celebration

A Socially Distanced Sweet 16 Celebration

Turning 16 is always a memorable day in everyone’s life. But what if the milestone birthday is during a pandemic? It becomes even more memorable, as it turns out.

Ananya Kulkarni of Dayton, New Jersey, had reconciled to having “a boring” Sweet 16 birthday on May 3. Instead, it became a “most special day ever.” Ananya is a sophomore at the South Brunswick High School in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey. 

Since her plans for spending the day in New York City with her friends came to nought because of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, her family planned a surprise drive-by party. Ananya’s birthday began at midnight, with cake cutting, then a special breakfast in the morning, followed by video montage sent by family and friends. 

Friends and family stand outside their cars to wish Ananya Kulkarni on her 16th birthday at her home in Dayton, New Jersey, on May 3, 2020. 

In the afternoon, when Ananya stepped outside, she was surprised to see a line of cars heading to her home, honking and blaring loud music. 

One-by-one her friends descended from their respective cars, holding birthday posters they made for their friend. They sat on the driveway, maintaining social distance, as they caught up with each other. They all were meeting face-to-face after almost two months. 

But the surprise didn’t end there. 

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A few minutes later, it was Ananya’s family and family friends.

The cul-de-sac near Ananya’s home was filed with more cars, as guests stood by their cars, wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance. It was a festive atmosphere as everyone sang for the teen as she cut a cake. “It was the best birthday ever and certainly the most memorable” she says. “It was sweet of everyone to drop by, and make it special for me.” 

Ananya Kulkarni, center, with friends who stopped by to celebrate her 16th birthday at her home in Dayton, New Jersey, on May 3, 2020. 

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