ROCHESTER, Minn. — Honorary Rochester, Minn., police officer Coltin Kenning may be a young man of few words, but he's had a big impact on the southeastern Minnesota law enforcement community.
The 10-year-old boy is a fan of law enforcement, and it seems they are a fan of him, too.
Coltin and his mom, Stephanie Kenning, spend a lot of their time in Rochester for numerous medical appointments and procedures for Coltin.
It was a long, hard summer for the Kimball, Minn., boy, and the changing of the seasons hasn't helped. He has a number of health issues that have resulted in numerous operations, including many brain surgeries. Coltin and his mom spend much of their in Rochester for medical appointments and treatments at Mayo Clinic. On Friday, Nov. 6, Coltin was scheduled for another surgery.
"He has been through more than anyone should have to go through in a million lifetimes, let alone 10 years," Stephanie Kenning said.
In August 2019, Coltin was surprised with a pizza lunch at Pasquale's Neighborhood Pizzeria and a ceremony making him an honorary member of the Rochester Police Department. Since that day, Coltin and his mom have maintained their relationship with the department, and expanded their reach beyond the lines of Olmsted County.
"He constantly is going to the different departments and spending time with them and meeting up with a deputy or an officer or a firefighter, and just hanging out with them," Kenning said. "I can't say it enough, I don't know what we would do without them. Especially this summer, he has had some Rochester police officers meet him at the park and spend their lunch hour with him or a couple hours playing games, playing on the slides, having ice cream with him, having lunch."
Rochester police officer James Marsolek was one of the first officers Coltin met in late 2018, as members of the department used to visit the children's hospital. Marsolek said their relationship grew from there.
Spending time with Coltin, Marsolek said, is a rewarding experience, especially contrasted with some of the harder experiences of being an officer.
"We get to go there and put a smile on some young boy's face, and he is so happy," Masolek said. "I think part of our profession is that we want to help people, and if we can do that little bit to help, then that is what we are going to do."
Rochester police officer Pat Kelly said it's an honor to spend time with Coltin.
"We care about that kid, and he is going through a lot, and we want to do whatever we can to make his life a little easier, a little better if we can," Kelly said.
The pair have spent time playing Chutes and Ladders at the park between Coltin's appointments, racing down slides and video chatting and razzing Kelly's brother, Goodhue County Sheriff Marty Kelly.
Coltin spent some of his 10th birthday with Sheriff Kelly, as well as members of the Lake City Police Department and other local law enforcement.
"That was a good day," Sheriff Kelly said. "Hopefully, there are more days like that. That is what we are praying for."
Kelly said he considers Coltin a member of the law enforcement family.
"Every time he comes up, we always have a good time," Kelly said. "He has a badge, he has a hat. Everything else we could supply him as far as our Goodhue County Sheriff's Office goes, he has it, and I think he is very proud of that. I am proud that he kind of took us under his wing, as well. He has made a difference in my life, more so than I have in his."
Coltin is a fan of all things law enforcement, but he especially likes police dogs. He's met most of the police dogs with the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office, Rochester Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol's Rochester district.
At the beginning of November, Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson shared details from Kenning on his Facebook page to help lift Coltin's spirits and maybe bring that "ever-present smile or smirk" Torgerson sees when he sees Coltin.
It's something that Kenning doesn't get to always see.
"I always tell them, when he is with them, I see nothing but pure joy and happiness, and that is something I never get to see on him because I always see all the tears and the pain and the hurt," she said. "I tell them every single time, you guys have no idea how much this means, not just to Coltin, but to me. For me, to just see him happy, it means so much."
Letters for Coltin
Letters, cards, notes and other items can be sent to Coltin's hospital room addressed to: Coltin Kenning, 1216 Second St. SW, Room 2-148; Rochester, MN 55902