Civil Air Patrol stages large parade for young Mystic man with disabilities, struggling during pandemic

Connecticut Families

MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut law enforcement and military surprised one Mystic man for his birthday Tuesday after News 8 reported about his struggle since leaving his group home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Out of the blue in Mystic, sirens blared, as fire engines and ambulances streamed down the street…all for Robby Porter and his devoted mom, Sherri Zummo.

“It was huge, huge,” says Zummo. “I am absolutely floored.”

RELATED: Connecticut families face difficult realities when adult children leave group homes during pandemic

“One of my officers, Jay Lavoie, saw your story in the news and decided to do something good for the community,” explains Colonel James Ridley of the Connecticut Civil Air Patrol, referring to a recent Connecticut Families segment, detailing Zummo’s life, with her intellectually-disabled and deaf son, since the pandemic began.

In early May, Zummo said of her son’s understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic, “He knows something is going on, he sees people wearing masks, that raises anxiety in him, his OCD is through the roof.”

Zummo chose to take her son out of his group home because she wouldn’t have been able to see him in-person during the pandemic shutdowns. But since then, the situation has been challenging, to say the least.

“He’s become very aggressive,” she said in May, noting that Robby always feels awful after his episodes.

The young man is a car buff. When he sees his favorite, a Ford Expedition, he is soothed.

That’s why Tuesday volunteers with the Air Force Auxiliary brought-in their fleet of Expeditions for the parade. Others followed suit. Soon local police and fire departments, even state vehicles, were on board.

“We’re all citizens of the state of Connecticut and the United States and if there’s anything we can do to help our fellow man, we’re all for it,” says Ridley. “It’s turned into a wonderful thing.”

Local businesses also contributed to make Robby’s 22nd birthday extra special.

“We’ve gone through a lot of tough times,” says Sherri. “The smile on his face and to see everyone come together to do something so special for my son, I’m speechless.”

Robby is getting support from his group home and will return when the visitation ban is lifted.

Tuesday’s spectacle was a moment of joy which everyone needed, so very much.

“With the struggles going on in the world right now and how empty all of our hearts feel,” says Zummo with emotion. “When things like this happen, it helps to fill the heart meter back up and keep us going.”

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