Mini St. Patrick’s Day parade spreads joy in Cutchogue

Johnny Tardif has always loved parades. It doesn’t matter what the celebration.

So the Cutchogue resident, who was born with cerebral palsy, was understandably disappointed when the Cutchogue St. Patrick’s Day parade originally scheduled for Saturday was canceled. The coronavirus pandemic has forced some of the world’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades to be canceled, including parades in New York City and Dublin.

Shelly Tardif, Johnny’s mother, was inquiring on Facebook recently about the status of the Cutchogue parade when she was informed it had indeed been canceled.

Johnny had been looking forward to the parade for a month, she said in a Facebook post. Johnny is also a huge sports fan and would always be there to watch his twin brother, Joe, play at Mattituck. Joe is now a senior at SUNY/Cortland.

Molly Waitz, one of the founders of Kait’s Angels, stepped in to help after hearing from Ms. Tardif about Johnny’s disappointment.

Ms. Waitz reached out to Andrew Garcia of the Southold Town Police Department, who helped organize a small, private parade with bagpipers outside the Tardif’s Cutchogue home Saturday afternoon.

Ms. Tardif said she found out Friday from Mr. Garcia, who wanted to make sure they could surprise Johnny. Ms. Tardif kept it a secret from him.

She also invited Thomas Jernick to join Johnny so they could celebrate together. Thomas’ father, Richard, recently retired from the Southold Police Department. They live in Laurel.

Johnny was decked out in green for the celebration.

“I think what they did was one of the kindest acts of love,” Ms. Tardif told The Suffolk Times.

The parade featured a small group of police officers and the Eastern Long Island Police Pipes and Drums.

Ms. Tardif said the when the boys realized what was happening, “their faces were priceless.”

Thomas Jernick, left, and Johnny Tardif outside the Tardif home Saturday. (Courtesy photo)