By Dillon Thomas

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – The Fort Collins community came together to provide a birthday parade to an 11-year-old boy who lost his father to coronavirus. Fort Collins Police Services, Poudre Fire Authority and more than 55 other drivers celebrated the 11th birthday of Graham Garret, who lost his father Brian to the virus one week before his birthday.

Brian Garrett and his family (credit: Susan Kahl)

Brian Garrett’s sister, Susan Kahl, said her brother’s loss was hitting the entire family hard, but especially Graham. Brian Garrett, 45, was a driver for Columbine Health Systems in Loveland and northern Colorado. Family speculates he may have contracted the virus after others within the company did as well.

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At first, Brian thought it was the flu. However, to protect his family, he self-isolated for two weeks in his home. After symptoms worsened, he was taken to Poudre Valley Hospital where he passed away after several days on a ventilator.

Brian Garrett (credit: Susan Kahl)

“We called him the gentle giant,” Kahl said.  “He was 6’5”. When he walked in a room he was a presence.”

The father of four wasn’t able to say goodbye to his loved ones, as the hospital kept him isolated from guests. He also wasn’t able to spend time with his family during his self-quarantine, as Kahl said he was making sure he didn’t expose his wife or children.

Kahl said her brother was known for doing whatever it would take to make sure his family was healthy and safe.

“His family meant more to him than anything,” Kahl told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

Just one week after the loss, Graham turned 11. Unable to spend his big day with his father, as once planned, the community came together for a surprise.

Outside of his home, Graham was shocked to find a large parade wishing him a happy birthday. Fire trucks, police cars and more drove by with those inside waving and wishing Graham a happy birthday.

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(credit: Susan Kahl)

“(The loss was) really tough on his children. It’s been hard having (Graham’s) birthday a week after his dad dies, and (Brian) is not there to celebrate with him,” Kahl said. “As soon as I heard those sirens start, I broke in to tears. I could hear Graham, his mom and his sisters all crying as they waved at everybody.”

Kahl said the parade was organized, in-part, by students and staff with Poudre School District.

“(Graham also) got video messages from kids at school. He got birthday cards. His class had a virtual party for him,” Kahl said. “The parade really touched him.”

(credit: Susan Kahl)

The family said the loss of Brian was incredibly difficult, and sudden. They were not allowed to mourn together at a funeral due to social distancing restrictions. Brian was buried with only his wife and children on-site, others were not allowed to attend.

Through the shock of loss, Kahl said the Fort Collins community went above and beyond to support her loved ones during the loss.

Watch the full video of Graham’s birthday surprise:

“The community here in Fort Collins has been absolutely amazing,” Kahl said. “(The parade) really meant a lot to him. To see those police officers, and firemen, come out and support him. We can still pull together as a community. We can still find ways to support each other and still find ways to let everyone know we still care about each other.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the Garrett family.

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Dillon Thomas