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Kids Wish Network Comes to Westside Elementary
Six-year-old Colton Taylor gets a hug from Lake City Police Chief Argatha Gilmore at his surprise lunch with his classmates at Westside Elementary. -SVT Photo by Jill Childs
By Jill Childs
At Westside Elementary School last Thursday morning, a very deserving six-year-old boy had two dreams come true. Kids Wish Network collaborated with Colton Taylor’s family, his school, and local law enforcement officers to give him a special day and a special week to look forward to this December.
Colton is a happy, energetic, adorable child who has dreamed of becoming a k9 police officer and of going on a trip to Disney World. Colton was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at five weeks old and is a child with an exceptional gift for remaining positive in difficult circumstances. Misty Taylor, his mother, explained that Colton has remained positive no matter how much he has endured.
On Thursday, Colton came to school expecting it to be a normal day, but with the help of his classmates, he was surprised at his lunch time to discover a special lunch of pizza (Little Caesar’s - Colton’s favorite) next to stuffed-animal police dogs, his family, officers from the Lake City Police Department, and members of the Florida Gateway Law Enforcement Academy. Colton was awarded his own police officer badge and a shirt with his name and “title.”
During the lunch, before Colton’s even bigger surprises, Colton expressed excitement over every detail of the party, from the police badges on the balloons, to the stuffed animals at each student’s seat. His excitement rose even higher when it came time to meet a real police dog and K9 police officer.
K9 Officer Marc Hardison came into the room with a smile beaming across his face. It was like an award to him as well, to make Colton’s wish come true for the day. Police Chief Argatha Gilmore glanced back at the members of the law enforcement academy and said,
“This is really what makes policing the best profession in the world.” The excitement continued with even more surprises as all of the students, the family, and the officers followed Officer Hardison out to the field to watch as Colton assisted him in taking his police dog over hurdles and in following commands.
Then, Colton found out that he would be going on a five-day, four-night stay to Disney World and Legoland. Participants in the Florida Gateway Law Enforcement Academy (of which Colton’s father, David Taylor, is a part), also came together to give Colton a one hundred dollar gift card to use any way he pleases while he is at Disney World.
After the first grade classes came out to watch a K9 demonstration with Memnoch, the police dog, they had a question and answer session with Crista Thomas (LCPD Community Relations Officer) about Hardison’s police dog. Thomas gave the students fun facts about the dog, explaining he understands a locally-rare language spoken by his trainer and that he is considered to be an official officer who has his own badge.
The day was fun for Colton and his classmates, but it was also special for the officers, school staff members, and Colton’s family.
Paraprofessional Christie Hogan exclaimed,
“This is just the greatest thing ever!”
Colton’s teacher, Christina Morrison, expressed how she enjoyed that it was a “simple and amazing wish” that allowed the other students to participate in the surprise.
Assistant Police Chief, Joe Butler stated, “It’s great anytime we can do something like this.” It was even more heartwarming to hear the sincere gratitude expressed by Colton’s parents and older sister.
Colton’s mother explained that his illness is currently doing well. He usually spends about one week each year in the hospital to help keep the bacteria in his lungs under control. Last year was a more challenging year for Colton, as he had to spend two weeks in the hospital and had a sinus surgery, but the family expects that Colton will still be doing better this December.
Kids Wish Network’s marketing director, Kendra Kenney expressed her excitement over making Colton’s wishes come true through the help of donors and sponsors. Kids Wish Network is “dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children facing life-altering circumstances.” More information can be found at www.kidswishnetwork.org.
Above Photo: Colton Taylor holding the Kids Wish Network sign with his classmates and teacher at Westside Elementary, his family, law enforcement officers and K9 Memnoch.
Photo Left: K9 Police Dog Memnoch gave a demonstration with Lake City Police Officers at Westside Elementary as kids cheered.
-SVT Photos by Jill Childs