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Toddler who died waiting for donor heart honored by Boston police

Grant Hessman was overcome with emotion after a Boston Police Department ceremony Tuesday posthumously honoring his son Kolton.
Grant Hessman was overcome with emotion after a Boston Police Department ceremony Tuesday posthumously honoring his son Kolton.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

Kolton Nguyen Hessman, the Knoxville, Tenn., boy who gained national attention on social media because of his love of police cars and law enforcement, was honored posthumously by the Boston Police Department Tuesday morning.

(David L Ryan/Globe Staff)

Hessman died Jan. 25 at age 3 while he was on a transplant list, waiting for a donor’s heart. His parents, Grant and Mimi Hessman, along with his grandfather, Richard, attended the emotional ceremony at the Boston Police Academy in Hyde Park, where the boy was memorialized as an honorary member of the Police Department.

“I just want to thank you guys. . . . Thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” said Grant Hessman, who wiped tears from his eyes during the presentation.

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The special connection between Boston police and Kolton Hessman began when Officer Kevin Welsh, an instructor at the academy, stumbled across the boy’s Facebook page, facebook.com/praying4kolton. Welsh saw the boy was in need of a heart transplant and sent him a care package. He also spread the word to his colleagues and recruits at the academy. As a result, several potential donors from New England came forward, Welsh said.

Police recruits presented the family with bouquets of flowers at the ceremony, and the academy’s Recruit Class 56-16 and the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association gave the family plaques. Commissioner William B. Evans presented the family with a badge in honor of their late son.

“We’ll always keep Kolton in our prayers and our memories,” Evans said. “His memory will live on forever.”

One part of the display case in the academy’s lobby has been designated “Kolton’s Korner.” It contains many photos of the boy and mementos, including a toy police car. The centerpiece is a framed photo of Kolton wearing a SWAT uniform.

Grant Hessman said his family was touched by the compassion that so many police officers showed.

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The Hessmans thanked Welsh and the Police Department for their support while they searched for a heart donor for their son.

Grant Hessman appeared before the classroom full of officers and recruits Tuesday and shared with them a scary statistic from the American Academy of Pediatrics: Nearly 40,000 infants are born in the United States each year with congenital heart defects. He also spoke about the importance of organ donation and encouraged everyone, including children, to become organ donors.

At the end of Tuesday’s ceremony, Grant Hessman gave the officers and recruits blue and black wristbands that say “Officer Kolton Hessman, Boston Academy 56-16.”

“This is from Kolton,” he said.

 Memorabilia were on display at the entrance to the Boston Police Academy before Tuesday’s ceremony.
Memorabilia were on display at the entrance to the Boston Police Academy before Tuesday’s ceremony.(David L Ryan/Globe Staff)

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com.