Good Neighbors

Community Surprises Crossing Guard on His 80th Birthday

When they found out the milestone was coming up, they wanted to do something big to celebrate.

"Peace, I gotcha."

For the past 14 years, children in Wilmette, IL have heard this greeting as they cross the street on their way to and from school. The man behind the catch phrase is their neighborhood crossing guard, Alec Childress. Every day, Childress greets the children with a smile, a peace sign and the words, "Peace, I gotcha."

Childress turned 80 last month, and the families in the neighborhood gave him a celebration he won't soon forget. A group of around 100 parents, children and other community members showed up at the intersection where he works and surprised him with signs, balloons and a tent full of food and drinks. When they saw him approaching, they all shouted, "Peace, I gotcha!"

(Source: Wilmette Police Department Facebook )

"It was awesome!" Childress told Fox News . "All the kids, the parents...It's beyond comprehension. I told somebody I need to sit down before I fall down."

Childress started working as a crossing guard after he retired from his construction job. He has two children with his wife of 32 years, Gail, and has 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He said aside from his family, his greatest joy in life is helping the children at Central School and St. Francis School as a crossing guard.

Childress has been helping children cross the street in Wilmette, IL for the past 14 years.

(Source: Wilmette Police Department Facebook )

The community returned the love by showing up to support Childress on his special day. They sang him 'Happy Birthday' and the police department presented him with a custom street sign that reads "Alec's Corner." The families pooled money together to buy tickets for him and his wife to go to dinner and see the play Hamilton. They also put a book together of photos and memories for him.

(Source: Wilmette Police Department Facebook )

"Alec's just amazing, he is so special," community member 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."

(Source: Erin Ivory Facebook )

Childress says he stays healthy by walking four miles a day, and that he doesn't have plans of leaving his job as a crossing guard anytime soon.

"As long as I'm able to do this, I'll be out here giving the peace sign," he said.

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