By Steve Sears
On Thursday, August 13, after battling the COVID19 virus for 136 days in Chilton Medical Center and Morristown Memorial Hospital and in a rehab facility at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick, Pequannock’s 21-year-old Colby Douglas returned home.
And what a homecoming it was. Pequannock Town Councilman David Kohle and township police officer Chris Nelson, as well as Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Travis Somerville, all greeted Colby – who has Down Syndrome and is a Special Olympics swimmer – at CSH and helped him into a limousine provided by Sean and Paddy’s Limousine Service. Sean Cogavin, owner of the limousine service and initiator of the welcome home parade, was at the wheel. Colby was then escorted home via motorcade from New Brunswick to Pequannock by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Bureau Corporal Pete Lohmus and Detective Sergeant David Kenny, as well as current Kinnelon Borough Acting Police Chief, Joseph Napoletano. Detective Sergeant Kenny also gave Colby a proclamation signed by Morris County Sheriff, James Gannon.
Colby first entered the hospital on March 30. “I was distraught and couldn’t believe it was happening to him,” says Gayle Douglas, Colby’s Mom. “An innocent person. He didn’t deserve what transpired and what he went through the following months.”
The August homecoming was heartwarming for Colby and his family. “Each person did different things to make the day amazing,” Douglas said. “And Colby loves policemen and firemen. Anybody in uniform, he loves them. Security? It doesn’t matter. If you have a uniform on, he just loves you.”
Newark-Pompton Turnpike was lined with well-wishers for Colby, and balloons adorned the family home when he arrived. “It was amazing,” says Douglas. “I cried the whole way in. My husband (George) in the back was crying, Colby was waving. Colby was thrilled; I could see him in the back waving, smiling. I don’t think he realized – he does not realize – what an inspiration he is. He doesn’t, but he is and has been.” Colby, the youngest of the five Douglas children, then got another hero’s welcome at the Great Divide Campground in Newton, where the family often camps.
“My ‘Prayer Warriors,’ says Douglas about those who on Facebook followed her posts and prayed when she asked for prayers, “they helped me get through. You know, there was a lot of hard times. And truthfully, the last few days here have been hard. Just me and my husband trying to get through and help him move on. The reality, though, is he wants to walk and he’s trying really hard, and it’s still a part of the road.”
Douglas, her husband, and Colby were interviewed virtually by Savanah Guthrie on The Today Show on August 17. “That was awesome,” says Douglas. “They came to the house and they were all so nice. The interview was about 25 minutes and they did an awesome job.” And when Colby was asked what was the best part of the parade, what did he respond? “His fans,” says Douglas, chuckling. “His fans.”
“It’s not over,” Douglas says. “This is the last chapter in his healing journey that we’re on right now. It’s not harder, because he’s here, he’s Colby. And I just love seeing that.”