ITHACA, N.Y. — At Ithaca Police Officer Colin’s 10th birthday bash, there were Christmas carolers, a creepy Halloween graveyard, a Valentine decorating station and Easter egg hunts. But for Officer Colin nothing compared to the five-tier cake – a tower of holiday-theme layers topped with a large number 10 on it.
“He’s really excited because he got to help plan (the design),” his mom Tamiko Toland said, while dressed as a turkey with a stick of blue cotton candy in her hand. Her husband, Ian Hayward was dressed as an elf.
The party, she said, was a way for her and her family to give back to the community for their outpouring of support over the past nine months – a way to turn the generosity outward.
At the same pavilion in Stewart Park last summer, Colin Hayward Toland was sworn in as the youngest officer at the Ithaca Police Department.
He’s 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.
“We’re all celebrating the fact that he’s here, enjoying life,” Tamiko Toland said.
He met former IPD Chief John Barber at a community barbecue last summer and told him that he wanted to grow up to be an officer. Barber made sure that happened for Colin, who whole-heartedly moved into his role as a policeman.
Locally, people have seen Colin patrolling the Commons, speaking at events, and doing public safety service announcements for IPD on social media.
“It’s given everybody hope,” Chief Pete Tyler said. “He’s an amazing inspiration to our city and our police department.”
But it’s not just Colin’s ability to overcome adversity that makes him an inspiration, it’s the humor and positive outlook he’s carried with him.
“It’s how he’s done it. it’s how his family has done it,” Tyler said. “He’s our Colin, you know, and we’re very proud of him.”
Back in March, Colin faced a major health setback while he and his family were in California, which left him hospitalized and in a coma. It was touch-and-go with Colin for a while, but he was able to recover enough to get back to Ithaca and eventually come back to IPD.
Toland said there have been some repercussions from his most recent health scare.
She said, “He is frustrated by lesser ability.”
For instance, he can’t see as well as he used to and dizziness can set in pretty quickly. But that hasn’t reduced his quality of life. Colin, she said, had just learned to adapt to the way his body changes.
“Things must change for him all the time,” she said.
At the party, Colin took silly pictures in the photo booth, watched a local band play the Lava Song, and talked with some of his favorite people.
“He’s so resilient,” Barber said. “If anybody is going to live their life to the fullest, it’s Colin.”
You can keep up with Colin’s adventures on his Facebook page Officer Colin: The Youngest Member of the Ithaca Police Department.
All photos by Jacob Mroczek/The Ithaca Voice