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Not your average birthday — Westlake community holds parade to celebrate 3-year-old who beat cancer

Emmett's birthday party plans were derailed by COVID-19
Posted at 3:44 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 18:54:40-04

WESTLAKE, Ohio — Emmett Novak is not your average 3-year-old.

“He loves to just run around, cause havoc, rip everything up,” Matt Novak said, “Do typical 3-year-old things.”

So of course, an above-average little boy deserved an above-average birthday party.

“Today is officially Emmett Novak day,” Rick Grane said. With an official proclamation from the Mayor of Westlake, the community rallied to help Emmett celebrate three trips around the sun right from his front yard.

“It’s been pretty great to see. I know he had a blast,” Matt Novak said, “To get him here with his cousins and see all the cars. He had a great time.”

Just before his second birthday, Emmett was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Hepatoblastoma.

“Tough road, tough year,” Matt Novak said. “But he’s bounced back really well.”

The cancer first attacked Emmett’s liver and spread to his lungs.

“He’s had five operations so far. They removed part of his lung, part of his liver,” Grant said, “And he’s never really had a birthday.”

Ashlee and Matt Novak’s plans for their sons first celebration since entering remission were derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we’re on, like, day 400 of quarantine,” Ashlee Novak said.

Because of the threat the virus could pose to Emmett’s health, the choice was made to stay at home for any sort of celebration.

“If there’s any silver lining to the distancing is that it isn’t anything out of the norm for him,” Matt Novak said, “But it’s definitely a little tough — once we were on the other side and now we’ve all gotta go back in the house.”

The birthday boy only had a few requests for his first celebration beyond the confines of a hospital room.

“Any dogs. He loves dogs. He was really hoping a puppy was going to be here,” Matt Novak said, “All we talked about this morning was firetrucks, dogs and police cars.”

Emmett is also a huge fan of all things law enforcement.

“Any time he hears the sirens or the trucks he runs up to the window and tries to find where they’re at,” Matt Novak said.

The Westlake Police and Fire Departments, neighbors, family and friends delivered.

Dozens of cars paraded past the Novak family’s front yard to wish Emmett a happy third birthday. Many folks even brought their dogs along for the ride.

“I don’t know how you can top this, but we’ll try,” Ashlee Novak said.

In lieu of presents, the family asked the Westlake community for food donations, which were donated to the Westlake Food Pantry following Thursday’s parade.

For more information about Emmett’s rare cancer, visit the Hepatoblastoma website.

To join in wishing Emmett a happy birthday, look for this story on our News 5 Facebook page.

Share your well wishes and photos of your family pets for Emmett to enjoy at home with his family.