ITHACA, N.Y. — “Colin! Colin! Colin! Colin!”
About 72 students from Ithaca’s Northeast Elementary school sat cross-legged in the Monday afternoon sunshine chanting for their 9-year-old classmate Colin Toland. To their right, more than 100 officers and first responders saluted at the young boy was driven toward the pavilion in a police SUV, with flashing lights blinking.
Joined by his parents Ian Hayward and Tamiko Toland, as well as his 12-year-old brother Aidan, Colin was greeted onstage by Mayor Svante Myrick to take his oath as an Ithaca Police Officer.
“I just like helping people.” Colin said about becoming an officer, though he said he “was a little worried” about joining the force. “I pushed to be a receptionist.”
Chief John Barber obliged but said that Colin has all the making of a truly good officer — brave, selfless and heroic.
“Colin, by far, is the strongest 9-year-old I have ever met,” Barber said.
Colin has been battling with brain cancer and tumors on-and-off since he was about 2-years-old. After chemotherapy and several surgeries, he went into remission. But the cancer returned in January 2015. He is currently in hospice care.
His father Ian Hayward said that Colin has always played the role of a helper. He said that two weeks before being diagnosed, his two sons were playing in a ball pit when an older boy put Aidan in a headlock.
“Before I could respond, across from the ballpit, Colin got through the ballpit, his fists balled, jumped on the child, got him off of Aidan and proceeded to pin him to the ground,” Hayward said.
The older boy then began crying and got his mother, who promptly made him apologize to Colin.
Hayward also reflected on a time during the first round of treatment, when Colin, unable to speak, motioned for him to give a teddy bear to a little girl also in recovery.
“When Colin was in his greatest moment of need himself, he was thinking about others,” Hayward said.
Colin was sworn into the Ithaca police force with hundreds of people watching. Hand raised Svante Myrick had him recite an oath to protect the public.
“This is the best new recruit we’ve sworn in, in Ithaca,” Myrick said. “I can tell you that you that the family you’ve joined will always protect you, will always have your back and they’ll never forget you.”
Myrick also announced that Sept. 12 is Colin Hayward Toland Day in the city of Ithaca.
Colin’s mother Tamika Toland said the huge showing of support means a lot to her and the family.
“It’s going to mean a lot to us for a very long time,” she said.