SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. – Today’s Amazing Woman of the Suncoast doesn't back down from a challenge. Whether she's toting a gun or armed only with love, she's ready to conquer any barrier that gets in her way.
Connie Colton has taken on a lot of challenges in her life, from police officer to mother of 6. And probably her most difficult task was standing by her young son as he battled cancer. But she's a woman who doesn't give up.
Connie loved police work. "I was a trooper. Part of that I worked at the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office as a dispatcher. And then my last 8 years, until I retired in 1988, I was a city police officer."
Then tragedy struck. “I got a nerve injury in my left arm during a training exercise, and I could no longer be a police officer. I was single, I had no children at that time."
Those were dark days. "When I lost my job as a police officer was devastated, I was depressed."
Then she made a life-changing decision. "I decided to do foster care classes through our local foster care, and I started taking in foster care children."
Over the next 6 years she cared for 30 or 40 foster kids. "When they would become available for adoption, if I had them in my home, I adopted them, because they were mine by then."
She ended up with 6 children...4 girls and 2 boys.
They came to her at different ages. "My youngest, Tony, he was 10 days old when he was placed in my home; and my oldest, who is 27 now, she was placed at 12 years old."
Many thought she was taking on an impossible burden. "People think they're damaged so much in foster care that they can't turn out to be wonderful adults and productive in society. But with love, care, structure, and putting them first and teaching them right from wrong, it can be done."
It was a huge shock when at age 11, Tony, her youngest, was diagnosed with kidney cancer. "We've been battling this on and off for 3 years. He relapsed once. Next month he will be out of treatment for one year, and right now he has no evidence of disease."
Tony says his mom was always there for him. "She always would stay next to me. She would sleep next to me in the hospital and she wouldn't leave my side if I needed anything."
Mother and son are now a team, traveling the country to raise awareness and funding to fight the disease.
Connie says the main thing she's learned on her journey is to count your blessings. "There is always a blessing or something to be thankful and grateful for in your darkest moment. And if you focus on that instead of what is bad you'll move forward and it'll be better."
Tony and his mom are heading to Washintong DC on September 19th for "Cure Fest", where Tony will speak on Capitol Hill to raise awareness and funding for pediatric cancer.
If you know someone you'd like to see nominated as an Amazing Woman of the Suncoast, just email her name and information about her to firstname.lastname@example.org.