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Suffolk police celebrate kids' birthdays with a parade

On Friday, the Suffolk County Police Department surprised

On Friday, the Suffolk County Police Department surprised two Bellport children with drive-by parades for their birthday, after they had to cancel their parties due to the coronavirus. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Early in the afternoon Friday, his fifth birthday, Roberto Cancel Jr. was in the front yard of his Bellport home playing with his remote-controlled police car as his family watched, his mother, Darcie Cancel, recalled.

"All of a sudden we heard sirens," Darcie said. The sound got closer and closer until the caravan — the "Birthday Parade" of Suffolk County police, including Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart — pulled up in front of the family's home.

Those sirens were for Roberto and his neighbor Hayley Hyde, who turned 9 on the same day. Both children previously had parties planned for them that had to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"He said, 'Oh my God! police cars!' He didn’t realize it was for him" until she told him, Darcie said of her son.

Later, she said, Roberto, who she said wants to be a police officer when he grows up, told her: "'This is so awesome, Mom.' He hugged me and thanked me."

"Roberto's parents brought Hayley's birthday to our attention," Hart said. "We thought we could absolutely make it a double celebration." 

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 Jackie Baggs, Hayley's mom, said: "It was just so beautiful. I was so overwhelmed. It was so nice to see. My daughter was so upset because we had to cancel her birthday party with all of her friends." The parade "turned out to be a birthday she’ll never forget."

It all started with Darcie Cancel's Instagram post requesting police to help celebrate Roberto's birthday because she had heard of that happening in Nassau County. But she didn't really expect anything to come of it.

"We are happy to do it and hope that it brings both Roberto and Hayley a nice celebration, even though it will not be a traditional celebration," Hart said in a phone interview before heading to Bellport. "And we hope they enjoy it."

"I was so happy; I was estatic," Darcie said of the police response. "We had a whole birthday party laid out for him. We had to cancel it. … He was so upset about it."

Roberto got well-wishes from officers, from a safe distance, she added, and a present from the commissioner, which the family had not yet opened. "This was the grand finale.”

"I just want to thank everyone who came out to help me celebrate his birthday," Darcie said. "With everything going on, they didn’t have to, and they made his day. He’ll remember it for the rest of his life." 

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