Celebrating Colby, Crusher of COVID
Bringing a Community Together to Welcome Home a Survivor
Dave Kohle’s had a lot of different roles over the course of his 27-year State Farm® career, but until recently, “parade organizer” wasn’t one of them. Though he may want to reconsider given the turnout for a welcome-home event he recently helped organize.
Dave is a life-long resident of Pequannock Township, New Jersey.
“It’s the kind of small town where everybody knows everybody else,” Dave said. “People look out for each other here.”
Among the many friends he’s made over the years are Gayle and George Douglas and their five children.
“Gayle’s brother was my best friend growing up. I feel like I’ve been a part of that family my whole life,” he explained.
The youngest member of the Douglas family is Colby, a 21-year-old man with Down syndrome. Colby contracted COVID-19 and was admitted to the hospital on April 2. He’d stay for the next 135 days. From the moment he was admitted, Colby’s situation was precarious. He spent the first 70 days on a ventilator. When he finally regained a bit of strength, doctors performed a tracheotomy. Then, slowly but surely, Colby started to heal.
Dave kept up with Colby’s situation, checking in on him and the family often. Dave had also recently been hospitalized with COVID.
“I was only in for three days and I was begging to come home,” Dave recalled. “I can’t imagine what he was going through in there.”
When Dave learned Colby was able to come home, he was overjoyed. He also got an idea.
“Him coming home after all this time was a big deal,” Dave said. “So I figured, ‘Why not try and do something special?'”
Everybody Loves a Parade
In addition to being a claims specialist, Dave’s also a member of the Town Council. When he found out Colby would be coming home on August 13, he made a few calls.
“One thing led to another and the next thing you know, we had quite a thing going,” Dave said.
The “thing” Dave got going was nothing less than a full-blown parade, complete with police car escorts, ambulances, limousines, and fire trucks flashing their lights. And, a crowd of close to 2,000 well-wishers lined the streets to welcome Colby home.
Local TV covered it, and Colby’s story went nation-wide via a TODAY Show interview.
“It was really a great day for the town and for Colby and his family,” Dave said.
That Dave orchestrated such a tremendous outpouring of generosity wasn’t surprising to those who know him.
“That’s pretty much the kind of guy he is,” said his manager, Roger Stites. “He’s always showing that Good Neighbor attitude in everything he does.”
Dave credits State Farm for supporting employees’ charitable efforts. And, he is particularly grateful for the way the company deals with employees impacted by COVID.
When he got out of the hospital, he was out of commission for about 15 days. He was then placed on paid administrative leave while he recuperated. A gesture Dave appreciated greatly.
“State Farm didn’t have to do that, but they did,” Dave said. “That’s the kind of place this is.”
The Kind of Place This Is
State Farm is “the kind of place” where helping others - being a Good Neighbor - is important. It’s recognized and rewarded.
“Here at State Farm we encourage our employees to carry the Good Neighbor Spirit out into their communities as part of our 100 for Good initiative. Dave and his work in the community, and with this parade, is a great example of how employees use that benefit to contribute and make a difference,” said Senior Vice President Annette Martinez. “We could not be prouder.”
Dave has recorded 100 Acts of Good. That earned him an extra paid day to volunteer. Not surprisingly, Dave used that extra day to volunteer at Colby’s parade.