VICTORIA -- A Vancouver Island family has banded together to create a special birthday video for their 85-year-old grandfather, who they are unable to visit due to COVID-19 isolation restrictions.

The Holland family in Courtenay, B.C. spent an evening creating a Rube Goldberg machine using toys and family heirlooms for their grandfather who lives in Parksville, 75 kilometres away.

“It was a great surprise,” says Geoff Holland, 85. “I was expecting maybe a phone call saying, ‘Happy birthday,’ but the amount of love and toil they put into it was really heartwarming.”

Geoff’s son, Ian Holland, says that he and his wife and two children spent nearly three hours constructing the machine, which featured a real miniature cake and candle.

“We’ve got a little bit of tradition in the family of doing animated moviemaking, back from when I was growing up with my parents,” Ian says.

“We had wanted to celebrate my father’s 85th birthday with him, and even though he’s only an hour away from where we live, we knew we shouldn’t visit him. But, we wanted to do something special for his birthday.”

That’s when the Holland family raided their old toy chest, so that Geoff would recognize some of the items passed down through generations while watching the video.

“We had a lot of fun sort of pulling out the things,” says Ian. “The Hot Wheels track that we used actually comes from my childhood, so let’s just say it’s at least 50 years old.”

Ian says it took the family three tries before everything worked as intended.

“It took us a couple of takes to get it all working in unison,” he says. “We had a couple of false starts with the domino effect not going off but that was sort of expected.”

Fortunately, everything came together just moments before the miniature candle on the cake had completely melted down.

“Thanks to the videography skills of my son, who was visiting from Ontario, he was able to shoot it all in one take which is what we were hoping for.”

Meanwhile, at 85 years young, Geoff says that his children and grandchildren’s video was moving.

“It was all a great joy to me,” he says, adding that he thought the video was "ingenious."

With much of Vancouver Island facing prolonged periods of self-isolation, both Geoff and Ian recommend keeping busy to maintain good mental health.

“Get outside and get some exercise but practise the physical distancing and don’t go to public places,” says Ian.

“To help yourself from going stir-crazy, be creative, be imaginative and share video and Skype sessions and whatever communication you can to check up on family and friends,” he says.

“We’ve all got to take it seriously and we’ve all got to do our part.”