A 12-year-old boy got the birthday surprise of his young life as a crowd of strangers from the local community came to celebrate his birthday after he was rejected by his friends.
Brody Neville’s friends, from both the school and in the community, turned their backs on him earlier this year after he came out as gay.
That made the prospect of celebrating his birthday this year a sad one for Brody’s mother, Leah O’Donnell.
“I was asking him what he wanted to do for his birthday and he was in tears and said since he came out as gay he lost all his friends, so he didn’t even have people who could come,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell refused to let her son down, so she reached out to people on Facebook in the hope of rallying some people to cheer up the boy for his birthday.
“I am hoping that some of our village might be able to swing by to offer birthday wishes as well as support for my sweet little guy. I know he could really use the boost,” she said.
Dozens of friends, family, strangers, and even some drag performers strutting to Born This Way — answered her call, filling a park in Calgary, Canada, to shower Brody with love and support.
“Showing up here today and seeing how many people in solidarity love him… it brought my faith back in humanity during such a tumultuous time in society,” local drag queen Jessica Tailfeathers told CBC.
When Brody first arrived in the park he initially thought the crowd was an unusually large line for ice cream, but he quickly realized he was the guest of honour. He then wrapped his mom into a giant hug.
“Thank you everybody for this, this is the best day of my life,” he told the crowd with a grin on his face. “That’s the greatest present of all, support and people in it together with you.”
O’Donnell said it was an opportunity to show her son that there’s a supportive community waiting for him outside of the schoolyard bullies.
“I just wanted him to feel support,” she said.
Happy Birthday to Brody! pic.twitter.com/ThZD6shCfB
— Peter Kieren 🌈 (@canmoreman) August 28, 2021
Drag queen Avanna Kedvra, who came out at 19, said she can’t imagine the bravery it took for Neville to speak his truth.
“It’s kind of ridiculous that in 2021 a 12-year-old can’t be who they are … it’s a very sad reality in this day and age,” she said. “[But] it’s outrageously amazing that this little kid, even with all this adversity, can still be out here and feeling joy.”
Brody said the crowd was a lot to process.
“That’s the greatest present of all, support and people in it together with you,” he said.