(WILMETTE, Ill.) — A beloved crossing guard just got the sweetest 80th birthday surprise.
Alec Childress was surprised by 100 kids, parents, family and church members on Thursday at the intersection where he’s served as a crossing guard in Wilmette, Illinois, for 14 years.
The village even presented Childress with an honorary street sign which read, “Alec’s Corner.”
“It’s a joy that words cannot explain,” Childress told Good Morning America moments after the celebration. “It’s unbelievable the love that had been poured out for me. I’m just so grateful.”
Childress previously worked in construction for 46 years. He had one child with his first wife of 25 years, who died from cancer.
Childress and his current wife of 32 years, Gail, have two children. He also has 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
In addition to his family, Childress said his greatest happiness has been greeting the students of Central School and St. Francis School.
Each morning, the kids are met with a smile, a peace sign and his catch phrase, “Peace, I gotcha.”
“Alec’s just amazing, he is so special,” a party organizer Krista Gallagher told GMA. “We feel like he’s a real gift to us. He gives us love and joy and happiness every day on top of keeping our kids safe.”
Gallagher is mom to Lauren, Morgan and Liam. Her family has known Childress for five years.
Gallagher said neighbors and friends all chipped in so Childress and his wife could go to dinner and the show Hamilton for his birthday — a gift a roaring crowd surprised him with this morning.
“He did not see it coming,” Gallagher added. “He got out of his car and said, ‘I’m speechless and you know I’m never speechless.'”
Childress said he’s always shown “love, respect and his highest character.” He prides himself on walking 4 miles a day and said he has no immediate plans to retire.
“As long as I’m able to do this, I’ll be out here giving the peace sign,” Childress said.
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