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By now, you've probably heard or seen a birthday car parade. But what about one featuring more than 100 exotic cars — like a neon green 2016 Dodge Viper — trucks and motorcycles?
Copiague Harbor resident Michael LaRocca has been leading free, over-the-top birthday parades for children. His first, held on March 26 in North Babylon, featured more than 150 cars to celebrate an 11-year-old's big day.
“I was asked by a friend of mine who knows I have connections with exotic car clubs to help celebrate his son’s birthday,” says LaRocca, a partner at Everything Auto, a car leasing company based in Bethpage. LaRocca put the word out on social media asking for motorists to take part in the drive-by, and it got some attention. He notes, “the videos and word of mouth [from the event] made this go on fire.”
The post garnered so much attention, LaRocca started the “Strong Island Car Parades 4 Kids” Facebook group, where anyone interested in driving in a car parade, or having one for their own child, can reach out to him.
“The dates [for parades] are booked through the end of May,” says LaRocca, “with an average of seven to 10 a day during the week and up to 20 a day for Saturdays and Sundays.”
Through the Facebook group, each parade is listed as an event, and any car is welcome to participate.
The processions have made a splash as some have featured exotic sports cars. “We have had parades with [cars worth a combined] four million,” claims LaRocca, including one that took place on April 11 featuring Lamborghinis, Ferraris and classic cars of several types.
One vehicle that has been heavily noticed in social media videos taken during the parades is LaRocca’s custom 2016 Viper, but other cars have included Corvettes, Jeeps, monster trucks and Harley Davidson motorcycles. “And then there is the community, that show up in their average cars just looking to brighten kids’ days.” Some of the drivers and their passengers dress in costume as well.
LaRocca can’t guarantee which cars will appear in any given procession “but every parade to my knowledge has been a smiling success," he says.
Mostly done for kids’ birthdays or for children with special needs, Strong Island Car Parades 4 Kids has also rolled past homes of adults upon request.
Families of those receiving parades usually respond by decorating their lawns with signs and balloons, LaRocca says. He adds, “People are waiting outside with cameras … and we wish every child a happy birthday … we also allow the child to stop any car they want for a photo with it.”
The group has been trying to give each child guest of honor a gift, and toys are being donated by either members of the group or participants in the parades.
LaRocca adds that the events are lined up at a fair distance from each birthday home, so drivers have enough time to get there, and “every stop sign and traffic light is followed.”
In many of the parades, LaRocca serves as the lead driver. “I see the kids jumping and pointing once they realize we are there … it's a pretty crazy feeling.”
INFO: Strong Island Car Parades 4 Kids, facebook.com