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Somber celebration in Schuylkill County

A birthday parade was held for a young boy who had lost his mother days ago in a car accident.

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — A surprise parade was held for seven-year-old James Whalen, and it was different than in years past. 

Not because he was turning another year older, but because this year, he would celebrate his birthday on Mother's Day and without his mom.  

James and his family lost his mother, Abbey Whalen, in a fatal crash on Route 61 near Orwigsburg, Thursday morning.  

Friends of the family say this wasn't just a birthday for James, but a tribute for his mother. 

"Somebody at the very top, the beginning of the parade route said, 'wow did you expect this many people to show' and the way I replied was, 'I did because people show up for good people and that's what the Whalen's are,'" said Tom Bonner, a close family friend.

Bonner remembers Abbey as someone who always gave 110 percent in everything she did. 

"When Abbey wanted to do something, she put her heart and soul into it, and we just wanted to try and honor her and pick up where she left off, and hopefully, we did her proud and the family proud today," Bonner explained.

And according to friends and family, Whalen was planning the birthday surprise for her son before she died, and family and friends say it was only right to carry out her mission. 

"I just really hope that they can see that they're very loved and that there's an outpouring in the community both with the school and the neighborhood and just everyone around," said Jess Roth, James's 1st-grade teacher. "They have the support that they need and that we love and will do anything to make this you know the best possible situation out of the tragedy."

"I think right now, she would absolutely be loving this for him because she was a wonderful mother, and her kids came first," added Jess Polak, a family friend. "It's nice to honor her this way, knowing that we put her son first today because that's what she would want."

On the first Mother's Day without Abbey, more than 50 vehicles came out to wish James a happy birthday and show the Whalen family how much they are loved and supported during this difficult time. 

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