MARGATE – Nobody, but nobody’s gonna rain on Johnny’s parade. While birthday drive-bys have become commonplace these days of COVID-19, Little Johnny Amodeo, 5 years old, decided he wanted to BE the parade.

On Saturday morning, May 23, after a pouring down rain, the skies cleared and the sun shone brightly as he and his parents got in their car to drive to the Margate City Firehouse on Washington Avenue to join a parade in his honor. The parade route wound its way through the city with Johnny’s granddad, Commissioner John Amodeo taking up the lead on his bicycle, with a big red firetruck and two police cruisers not far behind.

More than 75 Margate families and one Longport family decorated their homes with gold and grey balloons and streamers as a show of support for Johnny and is fight against brain cancer. It took more than an hour for the caravan, with Johnny in tow, to pass by every one.

The parade was organized by Johnny’s pre-kindergarten teacher at the William H. Ross Elementary School, Christina Campbell, who lives a few blocks away.

Campbell said she got the idea to have Johnny ride in the parade to give him an opportunity to have some fun and get out of the house, especially because he’s been isolated because his immune system is now compromised.

“I got the idea from the Rainbow hunt, which has spread like wildfire through the Downbeach community. The kids have been walking around town looking for rainbows in the windows. Since May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month, it was a good way for him to hunt down the homes decorated in gold and grey,” she said.

Johnny was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year and has undergone seven rounds of chemotherapy. He is scheduled for his eighth and final round which will require a 5-day stay at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. After that he will start radiation treatments. He’s been a trooper through it all, his mom Kelle Amodeo said.

Johnny is doing very well tolerating the treatments and the tumor is shrinking. She said she had the same type of tumor in her chest when she was younger, but it is unknown if the cancer is hereditary.

“They don’t know. They said they would do some research on it,” she said.

“Even with the pandemic and having to leave school and at stay home, his spirits are up,” his grandmother Luann Amodeo said.

A retired Tighe Middle School media specialist, Luann Amodeo has been helping her son John and his wife shuttle Johnny to appointments in Philadelphia and helping with home schooling for Johnny and her other grandchildren.

“As soon as they get here in the morning, we say the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer and they eat their breakfast. I get up at 5 a.m. just like when I was working at Tighe School. And they come here bright and early ready to work, just like they are going to their real school,” she said.

Word of the parade spread through the close-knit school community and his classmates and other Margate families decorated their homes in the gold and grey colors. Some made hand-painted signs of encouragement that and hung streamers from their street trees. The firehouse was decorated in a similar fashion with a big banner that read, “Brave Like Johnny.”

“It is so wonderful to see the community pull together. The school community, as well as police and fire, are all doing their part to show the Amodeo family we are all here for them,” Campbell said.

Johnny was very excited and was telling all the doctors and nurses at CHOP that there was going to be a big parade this weekend and that it was all for him, she said.

“The community is really banding together to help the family deal with this.”

Some sent gift cards or ordered meals for the family.

“The journey is long, but we will help them through it,” she said.

Copyright Mediawize, LLC 2020

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Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.