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    Parents Hold Community Gathering for Officer Colin

    Officer Colin impacted a lot of people throughout his life.

    Funerals, wakes, and calling hours are typically grim events filled with tears and mourning. But the calling hours held for Colin Hayward Toland on March 23 were an exception.

    Colin was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was two-years old. One of his goals in life was to become a police officer. He said that he “wanted to help people.” In Sept. 2016, the Ithaca Police Department made his dream of becoming an officer a reality by swearing him in. Around Christmas time of that year, he made his first arrest, taking the Grinch into custody for stealing toys.
    He spent the next year and a half engaging with the Police Department through training exercises, and visiting with police departments in other states. In Nov. 2017, the Ithaca Police Department promoted him to the rank of Sergeant.
    Unfortunately, around that time, his battle with cancer began to deteriorate. On March 18, Colin’s family shared the news of his passing with a Facebook post.
    Two days later, Colin received a police escort from Syracuse Hancock Airport to the Lansing Funeral Home. His escort included about 50 emergency vehicles.
    “It’s not natural to lose a child,” Ian Hayward, Colin’s father said. “The way our loss happened was more of a slower motion event. It wasn’t just something that happened suddenly – it was over time.”
    A Celebration of Officer Colin
    After Colin’s passing, his family reached out to the principle of Ithaca’s Northeast Elementary, who helped plan the calling hours. His family likes to describe the event as a “community gathering” because it also served as a kid-friendly celebration of Colin’s life.

    Colin’s parents were working on trying to get him home and relied on the school to figure out some of the details of the community gathering.

    “We were in the midst of trying to get Colin home and there was just a lot of logistics,” Tamiko Toland, Colin’s mother said. “It was incredible, because we did not [fully] know what to expect when we arrived…it was just an incredibly convergence of people’s time, effort, and care in putting together an event that would properly represent Colin as a person.”

    Colin’s family wanted the event to celebrate his life and to include a kid-friendly environment, so that his close friends would have something to cheer them up.

    “I felt like having a theme where there were some elements of a celebration was appropriate because Colin would have wanted it that way,” Hayward said. “I’m certain he wouldn’t want his classmates to feel sad…he’d also want to lift their spirits.”

    Kids play with legos at the gathering.

    During the community gathering, hundreds of people stood in line to talk to Colin’s parents and give their condolences. His family stood there for about five hours talking to people who were impacted in some way by their son.

    “I was struck by how many people in that procession that Colin touched,” Hayward said. “There were very very few strangers who had kind of followed Colin on social media. Most of these people were people that were somehow directly affected by Colin or had direct interaction with him.”

    Kids wrote about what Officer Colin meant to them.

    Going Forward 
    Colin’s funeral was held the day after the community gathering. He was laid to rest at Greenspring Natural Cemetery in Newfield. His parents, who had spent weeks at the hospital with him and had been away from home for long periods of time over recent months, are now settling down again at their home in Ithaca.

    But they are eager to make sure that Colin’s life is remembered and celebrated. They are currently planning two additional celebrations of Colin’s life. One of them will take place in the Ithaca area in June to celebrate his birthday. The other one is being planned for Memphis, Tennessee, where he had spent a lot of time in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

    “Colin has so many communities that he’s touched,” Hayward said. “The community kind of grew around the idea of the focus not being on what happens at the end as opposed to the journey and I think that’s the part that really inspired people, because Colin really learned how to live in the moment.”

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