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Christine Newman with Cathy Bawden

“In my thirty years on the job, that had to be the roughest week I have ever experienced.” My friend and soul sister, Cathy, begins to relate what had occurred as she arrived home that Friday evening. I had just seen her tweet about the surprise she discovered on the front lawn of her house, and was eagerly awaiting the details about that heart photo.

Cathy had posted a video to her community’s Facebook group on Monday of that week. In the second week of the pandemic lockdown, she had encouraged her community to put a heart in their windows to show support for everyone who was taking a risk to make the world work: first responders, medical and hospital staff, retail workers, truck drivers, transit, and more. Her Collingwood community of friends and neighbours took it on, and hearts were seen everywhere you looked.

During the week, Inspector Cathy Bawden of Durham Regional Police Service is responsible for leading 70 officers and civilian staff at DRPS North Division. She lives close to work, returning home to Collingwood each weekend, where she is a mother of five children, and grandmother of one granddaughter.

“I felt like I had an eye dropper of energy left, by the time I pulled into the driveway. I sat for a minute to breathe before gathering my things and getting out of the car. That’s when I saw this huge heart on my front lawn.”

As she walked over to look at the heart and read the messages written on it by her community, she looked up to see that they had all been sitting on their front porches or standing just out of sight on their driveways, waiting for her to arrive home.

“I stood there and cried, I so wanted to hug each and every one of them,” but due to physical distancing rules during the lockdown, it’s not possible, “and they stood, clapped and cheered, and I cried even more.”

I asked to be certain, that this was at home in Collingwood. “Yes, but it can happen anywhere if people get inspired,” Cathy replied. “Apparently they have also arranged for a reporter to drop by tomorrow morning to do a story about this.”

I could feel her blushing from a distance.

Erika Engel from Collingwood Today would drop by the next morning and write an exquisite story on this community with a show of heart. Erika reported on the creation of this large heart tribute by Dianne and Jim Steele, and why it was important to acknowledge Cathy. (click here to read Erika’s story)

Erika Engel’s story in Collingwood Today (Cathy, L; Dianne, R.)

I sent Cathy a note after reading the story: I know how humble you are, but please just take in the love for all that you are doing, I am so proud of you. She replied, “Thank you. We all need a little positive story right now.”

The following day, Sunday, some of the local folks loaded their musical instruments into the bed of a pickup truck, drove up, parked in front of Cathy’s house, and had an impromptu concert on the street. The video she sent showed neighbours on their front porches and in their driveways enjoying the drive-by performance.

Heart is a recurring theme in Cathy’s professional and personal lives.

In mid-May, she sent me a video and a message. “Today was my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. He is a huge supporter of all first responders. I organized this drive-by for him. He had happy tears when it was done. I am so thrilled we did this for him and got the video to show the grandkids.”

It was a minute long video, one of the lights and sirens drive-by salutes that first responders have been doing in their free time for special occasions like this.

Cathy said, “He is a good man and had no idea!! Total surprise. He has called us three times to talk more about it.”

This was a milestone birthday, and physical distancing restrictions had prevented a celebration with all of his family. The Inspector with the big heart found a way to make that day special for everyone who watched the video of his drive-by birthday salute.

Last year, I was asked by a colleague who was organizing an event with a day of speakers to describe Cathy by using a song. That’s easy, from 1955, before either of us were even a thought, the song is titled Heart. Singing them a line from the chorus, “You gotta have heart, miles and miles and miles of heart …”

Because heart is most definitely not cancelled.