Yakima boy with autism celebrates birthday with last-minute car parade

Sister puts out call for last-minute event on social media, gets overwhelming response

YAKIMA, Wash. — The Yakima community turned out in force Wednesday evening on short notice to help a boy with autism celebrate his 13th birthday with an impromptu car parade.

Mickayla Troutman-Campos put the call out on Facebook about 1 p.m. to see if she could get a handful of cars to form a birthday drive-by around 6:30 p.m. that evening to celebrate her little brother, Jarin Crocker, being another year older.

“He has autism so he hates everything but he loves cars/trucks,” Troutman-Campos said in the post. “I just thought about it but I know it’s last minute so if you’re willing to please pm me!”

Troutman-Campos said she expected between 10 to 15 vehicles, but ended up with an overwhelming response: about 50 cars, several motorcycles, a semi-truck and a half-dozen Yakima Police Department patrol cars with lights and sirens.

“It was definitely hard not to be emotional the whole time,” Troutman-Campos said. “For a community of people we don’t even know to come and help out, it was just like, wow, I can’t even put it into words … my heart is so full right now.”

The vehicles gathered in the parking lot of the nearby Davis High School and then headed in a line toward the parking lot of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, where Crocker stood on the sidewalk with his family and best friend.

As more and more cars drove past, Crocker kept asking his big sister how she had gotten so many people to show up.

“I was really surprised by it,” Crocker said.

Troutman-Campos had promised to make a plate of food for anyone who came by, but had to adjust her plans after her post blew up.

“We were supposed to make tacos for everyone and I told my husband, ‘Yeah, there’s no way,'” Troutman-Campos said. “So I was like, ‘Well we’re just going to have to buy 20 pizzas.”

But when the drivers came by — from across the Yakima Valley — no one asked for food; Troutman-Campos ended up with a car trunk full of pizzas to take back to the birthday party.

“A huge thank you to everyone, because I could not have done it by myself,” Troutman-Campos said.

While drive-by birthday car parades have gained popularity during the pandemic, it’s usually reserved for family, friends and acquaintances. In this case, it was people who had never met Troutman-Campos or her little brother who came to make his birthday special.

“I just really think it was amazing,” Crocker said. “They’re completely strangers and I don’t know any of them and they still came.”

Most honked their horns, waved and yelled out birthday well-wishes, but some brought cards, presents and balloons — enough that Crocker had to use a wagon to haul all his gifts back to the house.

Troutman-Campos said it touched her heart to see the Yakima community rally behind her little brother, who’s faced many challenges over the course of his life and has struggled through the pandemic.

“It’s hard for him to kind of be social and make friends because of his autism,” Troutman-Campos said. “When he was smaller, he had a really tough time in school because teachers didn’t know how to deal with him.”

Troutman-Campos said people have not always been kind or understanding about her brother’s differences, but it’s those differences and more that make him who he is: a little brother who she loves more than anything.

“The way that I look at it is it’s not a disability: he just has different abilities,” Troutman-Campos said. “Just because he’s a little different doesn’t make him any less of a person and I think everyone needs to know that.”

But over the past few years, Troutman-Campos said she’s seen her brother come into his own and start finding out where he belongs.

“It’s really hard for him but as he’s gotten older, he’s accepted himself,” Troutman-Campos said. “He knows himself better and he knows how to control his emotions — most of the time.”

Crocker was overjoyed at all the cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles and the many people who came to celebrate him turning 13. He wanted to give a shout-out to some of the people in his life.

“I want to thank all my friends at school for being my friends and for everybody being cool to me,” Crocker said. “And my teachers too: my teachers are awesome.”

The highlight of the event for Troutman-Campos was a very rare, big hug from her little brother.

“He kind of broke down and came to me and hugged me and told me that he loves me,” Troutman-Campos said. “I always try and hug him and he won’t, like he hates it, but it was his — he wanted to come hug me.”

Troutman-Campos said she wants her little brother to remember the experience and take away from it that no matter what happens, he is not alone.

“That just because maybe to other people, he is different, that he will always be loved the same,” Troutman-Campos said. “He’s one of the best little brothers I could ever ask for and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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