SEVEN-YEAR-OLD Brayden Gominger watches as a parade of vehicles drives down his street to help him celebrate his birthday last Saturday. The boy’s scheduled bowling birthday party was canceled because of COVID-19 regulations. (Photo provided)

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Staff Writer

It’s not every day that you turn 7, and Brayden Gominger had big plans for his birthday.

The Findlay boy was going to have a bowling party with his cousins and some friends. Unfortunately, bowling alleys were included in the list of places closed by COVID-19 regulations.

“He was extremely upset we had to cancel,” said his mom, Lindsay Caudill. “And I had to tell him why — that we had to be safe and not get anybody sick or expose anybody.”

Brayden said he understood, “but he was still really bummed out. He kept repeating, ‘This is going to be the worst birthday.’ I couldn’t take it. I needed to do something,” Caudill said.

On Saturday, the day before Brayden’s birthday, she asked people on Facebook if they’d be willing to make a card, FaceTime or call Brayden to wish him a happy birthday.

When Caudill’s friend, Sharon Aukerman, saw the post, she suggested a birthday parade. Caudill liked the idea and reached out to family members and friends. She arranged for anyone interested to meet on a neighboring street at 2 p.m. Sunday.

To keep it a surprise, she suggested that Brayden and his dad, Kirk Gominger, go outside and play basketball. It wasn’t long before 15 to 20 cars paraded by the family’s Colorado Avenue home, honking their horns to wish Brayden a happy birthday.

Caudill said some of the vehicles were decorated with birthday decorations. “People had party hats on and noisemakers,” she said.

A few people even tossed bags of candy to the birthday boy.

“His Aunt Rachel was hanging out the window, just screaming at him,” Caudill laughed. “We had neighbors across the street come out. I think all the horns were getting the neighbors out.”

And leading the parade was a Hancock County Sheriff’s deputy, another surprise arranged by a friend.

“I had no idea until Sunday,” said Caudill. “Sharon’s friend, Anne Cole, she got the deputy to come. And that was really awesome that he took time out of his day to do that.”

“I was shocked and amazed,” said Brayden.

Caudill recorded the parade and her son’s reaction.

“I didn’t get it caught on the recording, but when the siren started going, I said, ‘Brayden, what’s going on?’ And his face just lit up,” Caudill said. “I think he saw his grandma’s car and recognized some cars because they were at the beginning of the parade. And he screamed, ‘Is this for me?'”

It turned out to be a good day after all, Brayden said.

“It really did make me feel really good. I was really excited watching it happen. And I went back and was watching the video. I started tearing up, too, thankful that everyone took time out to come and do the parade for him,” said Caudill. “He said it was going to be something he was going to remember.”

In addition to the parade, Caudill contacted Stephanie Lloyd, Brayden’s first-grade teacher at Liberty-Benton School, and asked if she could send him a birthday video message.

“She went above and beyond and got his whole class to do a video chat with him at the same time and wish him a happy birthday, so that was also great for him,” Caudill said.

It was a birthday to remember, they said. Brayden received plenty of homemade cards and phone calls. People dropped off candy and ice cream, and a neighbor at his dad’s house had a present for him.

“It was just wonderful that there are good people in this world that want to make a little kid smile on his birthday,” Caudill said. “He was really happy. I could tell a difference in him after the parade. He really did feel loved and he also told me his heart was glowing.”

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