UPPER CHICHESTER >> Under the white registration tent, Sheila Colson unfolded a quilt, vibrant with blues and oranges and yellows and greens, but most of all, with the 85 pictures encapsulating the life and the person of her son, Jacai.
“Actually, I printed out 125 pictures of my favorite,” Colson said. “Then, it started getting too big, so I narrowed it down to 85.”
It took her a week to complete.
But, before it garnered awards and attention for its beauty and detail, it was - and is - emblematic of the love a mother has for her son as Colson and her family and friends and the community continue to grapple with the loss of a man known as much for his integrity and friendliness as his athletic prowess on the football field.
On Saturday, about 40 players faced each other on the Chichester High School football field at the second annual Cpl. Jacai D. Colson Scholarship flag football game fundraiser.
Colson was a Prince George’s County Officer First Class and undercover narcotics officer on March 13, 2016 when he responded to a call at the Landover, Md. police station where three brothers planned to engage police in a shootout and film it on the internet. Colson, a four-year veteran, was shot by another police officer as the brothers opened fire. He was 28.
At Chichester, Jacai was a star quarterback, coached by Joe LaRose and Bill Fagan, who helped to organize a scholarship in Jacai’s memory for a graduating senior entering law enforcement or public service.
“It’s about the fun and getting together,” Fagan said. “We’re going to do it every year.”
He said he was surprised by this year’s game.
“What we had that I didn’t expect was a lot of ... the kids from the existing team came up and they’re hanging out,” Fagan said. “They’re buying jerseys. The coach ain’t letting them play because they have a game on Thursday.”
Yet, he said it was great to see people in their 60s to those in their 20s on the gridiron.
Colson’s dad, James, agreed.
“This is spanning several decades out here with former players and guys that coached for him when he played,” he said. “So, it’s very meaningful the second year to get this kind of turnout.”
As Jacai’s younger brother, Jurea, played on the field, their dad was so grateful to the Chichester community.
“The community’s been wonderful, we can’t say enough,” James Colson said, mentioning the field’s press box that was named for his son. “The amount of support, people come out here on their own time on a Saturday, we can’t speak enough about it.”
Colson also spoke of how he would like his son to be remembered.
Among Jacai’s athletic, academic and community achievements, Colson said, “The fact that he was the kind of person that once you meet him, you could instantly become his friend. It didn’t matter who you were, where you came from ... He definitely was a people person and easy to get along with.”
It was that gift of Jacai’s that helped steer his mom into a place where she won awards for her quilt.
She herself has been a quilter for more than a decade and after she made the one for Jacai, she displayed it in the Pennsylvania Quilt Show in Oaks in September.
There, she met Joy Fields, an Undercover Quilter whose daughter had gone to school with Jacai.
“When she saw the quilt, she knew she had to find me,” Sheila Colson said, adding that she didn’t know the story Fields was about to share.
“She said her daughter was being bullied in high school and Jacai was walking down the hall when he saw them and he stopped the bullies and he said, ‘As long as I’m around, he was going to make sure nobody would (hurt her).’ She said nobody ever bothered her again.”
Upon seeing Jacai’s quilt with pictures sprinkled all over it from him as an infant to a graduating high school senior to a smiling uniformed police officer, Fields asked her to put it in the Undercover Quilters Brookhaven show last month.
Colson did and it won “Best of Show.”
On Saturday, she too was thankful for the crowds that came out to honor her son.
“Usually after the first year, it drops off but I’m glad people continue to keep Jacai’s memory,” Colson said.
Nearby, Cody Profitt, a full back and linebacker for the Chichester football team, stood on the sidelines Saturday with one hope.
The football player, whose brother Jim, played with Jacai said he held onto the wish that by everyone being there, it would help the family in some way deal with the tragedy of losing their loved one.
“It means a lot knowing that a guy has a great past and the sadness of what happened,” Profitt said. “It’s real sad, but to see everyone come together a few days before the Turkey Bowl, it makes us real happy.”