When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Neil and Amy Rubenstein started taking daily walks with their sons, Aidan, 9, and Brody, 6, as a way to get them out of the house. The couple, who used to own a creative celebrations party company, remembered they had garage and basement full of costumes that were collecting dust.
”We both thought out loud ‘let’s just put on the costumes and just start walking,” Neil says.
The next day, Neil dressed up as Cookie Monster, as the family walked the streets of Buffalo Grove, from Whitehall Drive to Arlington Heights Road and Lake Cook Road.
“Kids ran outside, cars started honking,” Neil says. “You can see that we really brightened everyone’s day.”
Neil Rubenstein as the Cookie Monster with his sons
What started as a few passersby grew to more than 100 spectators in less than two weeks. Every morning, Amy posts the character, time and route on the Buffalo Grove Moms Group, and neighborhood kids, as well as those from other suburbs, flock to the location. They smile and pose for photos at a safe social distance.
“I am so grateful to the Rubenstein family for bringing smiles to our faces during this difficult time,” says Stacy Misenko, whose 5-year-old daughter Leah looks forward to the character appearances daily.
In addition to their regular route, the Rubensteins also hosted a special appearance by Elmo as a family from Lake Zurich surprised their son for his second birthday. Neil has also earned a spot in the Buffalo Grove Virtual Pride Parade, and a local bagel shop has asked ‘Cookie Monster’ to hand out cookies once the stay-at-home order is lifted.
“This is one way to forget for a minute what the world is going through, and just have fun and spread joy,” Amy says.
Now that kids have already seen Elmo, Shrek and Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Rubensteins say they can look forward to meeting Curious George, Hello Kitty, Pluto and Santa.
“We are happy to do our part to make people smile,” Neil says. “We are all in this together.”
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