DERRY — Robert LaRochelle hit the jackpot Saturday with a strong showing of support from friends, family members and strangers who lined up in their vehicles to brighten his day and help him through some challenging times.
LaRochelle, who is battling Stage 4 colon cancer, was surprised with a car parade as dozens of decorated cars drove past his home on Blunt Drive, showing support and spreading good cheer to a family in need of care and love.
The parade was organized by LaRochelle’s sister-in-law Erin Croteau of Windham, who said she wanted to do something special for her brother-in-law and his wife, her sister Robyn.
Croteau said the family unit is strong and she hoped to bring a smile and some hope to LaRochelle’s face as he watched the parade of cars drive past his home.
“Their bills are adding up,” Croteau said, “and his last round of chemotherapy really affected him.”
LaRochelle, 43, was diagnosed last fall, Croteau said, soon after returning from a family vacation with the bad news coming quickly after the symptoms appeared.
“It was just crazy,” Croteau said. “I can’t believe this has happened.”
Croteau said her family traditionally gets together each weekend but with the novel coronavirus, commonly known as COVID-19, taking hold of everyday life, it’s been tough to be close to her family.
“Nobody can go around him right now,” she said. “We all love him and support him. He’s so depressed and so sad. He has so many people praying for him and supporting him.”
Croteau decided to reach out on social media and see if she could organize something to help support the family. The idea of a car parade idea began with a few people reaching out and wanting to take part. In a short time, there were more than 50 drivers who wanted to be part of the parade.
The vehicles staged at the nearby Metro Market on Route 28 and then headed to Blunt Drive, surprising LaRochelle as they drove past. Parade participants were also invited to toss lottery tickets for LaRochelle into the center of the neighborhood’s cul-de-sac.
“He had no idea,” Croteau said, adding that she blocked her brother-in-law from being able to see the event page on social media so it would remain a surprise.
Croteau said during these tough times, it doesn’t matter if you know everyone or not, just seeing the show of support was something special.
“It inspired him to know that we are all here to support him,” she said.
As the parade of cars drove past, the song “Eye of the Tiger” was scheduled to play.
Croteau said she wanted to see the look on LaRochelle’s face when the line of support drove past.
“This shows you how much people really do care,” she said. “I know he knows he has support. The isolation is hard right now. I just needed to do something.”