Phillip Gaspar loves cars, his home city of Taunton, and giving back to the community.

At the beginning of the pandemic, he started a group called “Cars for Kids,” where he and his car-loving friends would host a parade of cars for children celebrating a birthday, so they didn’t have to celebrate alone. The community took part by keeping an eye out for Gaspar’s announcements on Facebook.

“Whoever was feeling selfless that day would come,” he explained. At one point, Gaspar was conducting six birthday parades in a day. Due to a busy schedule, he was forced to retire his group – until he heard about a two-year-old boy battling brain cancer that could use some company on his birthday.

Sharon Barbosa had a birthday party to plan. Her son, Finn, was turning two, but with the pandemic still looming over the SouthCoast, her options were limited. Not to mention, she was in and out of the hospital with her son. Last summer, a tumor was found in Finn’s brain. By August, he was diagnosed with an extremely rare brain cancer called anaplastic ependymoma. The very next day after being diagnosed, he had immediate surgery.

She shared his story on Facebook, asking if those famous car parades that took place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic were still happening.

That’s where Gaspar comes in. He caught wind of the Facebook post and knew it was time to bring Cars for Kids out of retirement.

“The truth is, I don’t personally know them,” Gaspar said. “But (Finn’s) situation really hit home for me. I had a grandma and others close to me pass away from cancer."

Gaspar called up his friends, fired up the Cars for Kids Facebook group, and put out the news that a local child was in need of a birthday parade.

The response was overwhelming.

Contributed Photo

Dozens and dozens showed up to shower Finn with love. The Taunton Police Department, Taunton Fire Department, and hundreds of neighbors joined in on the parade. Some even had birthday presents, ready to make him smile.

“It made me feel really proud of my community and my city. I am very proud of Taunton,” Gaspar said. “This could have never happened without the help of Orlando Cornier, Adrianna Gerardi, and the wonderful people who volunteered.”

As for mom, she was speechless.

“I was so overwhelmed. For that moment, I forgot about everything going on. I was just happy," Barbosa said.

And so was her family. Finn was clapping the entire time from the comfort of his wagon, taking in the incredible scene unfolding just for him. Finn enjoyed his birthday, and for his parents and new friend Phillip, it was a day they will never forget.

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