Piecing Together Carnival

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 4:38 p.m. July 28, 2016

On the way home, a few months ago, Margaret Kelly was drawn to a huge puzzle piece outside the Divisional Policing Support Unit (DPSU) on Kipling Ave.

A boy seated beside a painting
Ricai Kelly with the Caribbean Carnival puzzle piece he painted for the Toronto Police Service float in the parade

It drew her attention because her teenage grandson, Ricai, is autistic and a puzzle piece is a symbol of the brain development disorder.

“I went to the building to see what it was all about, because my grandson is autistic,” she said, of the impromptu visit where she met the Service’s Caribbean Carnival coordinator Constable Isabelle Cotton.

The puzzle piece that she saw was part of 40 that have been assembled and painted for the Toronto Police Service’s float in this year’s Toronto Caribbean Carnival by young people.

“When she told me what they were doing, I asked if Ricai could do one of them,” said Kelly, whose grandson was diagnosed five years ago. “He loves drawing and painting, which are the only things that calm him down when he’s a bit unsettled.”

Cotton agreed to have Ricai design and paint one of the pieces to be included on the Service’s Carnival float, that will be seen by thousands lining the parade route along Lake Shore Blvd. on Saturday July 30. The float is being unveiled at Toronto Police headquarters July 29 at 11 a.m. 

Kelly is extremely happy that her grandson and the police have formed a bond.

“A few months ago, he was very fearful of the police and, when he saw an officer, he used to be scared,” she said. “I wanted him to overcome that fear because he encounters bullying. When that happens, I want him to know that he could go to a police station or approach an officer. I want him to be known by police in a positive light.”

Cotton said the teenager is now comfortable in the presence of police.

“When we first met, he was uneasy,” she said. “It took almost 20 minutes for him to look me straight in the eye. We have met several times and when he comes here, he walks around the police station. I can see the change and it’s amazing how much he has changed.”

To show their appreciation to Cotton, the Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School student’s mother recently sent her a homemade cake.

“Isabelle is my favourite police officer because she’s pretty and nice,” said the teenager. “I like her and the police because they are fun. I was scared of them before because they have guns, but not anymore.”

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