Runners remember Tolan

Josh Tolan was a dedicated runner, student, employee, family member and friend.

Tolan, an Ortonville resident and Oakland University student, was killed in a car accident last June.

He graduated from Brandon High School in 2007.

In his memory, his family and friends are holding the Josh Tolan Memorial Gift of Life 5K Race at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7 at Brandon High School.

Campus involvement

Tolan was extremely involved during his time at both OU and Brandon High School.

Not only was he named Homecoming King his senior year, but he also was the quarterback on the high school varsity football team.

Additionally, his classmate since fifth grade and girlfriend of two years, Kelsey Carmean, said he played the guitar and was passionate about music, regardless of the type.

Josh’s mother, Renelle Tolan, said possibly his most significant interest was running, and that he was an extremely dedicated person.

“He’d work all day and still come home and run at night,” she said.

He participated in track all four years of his high school career, and also ran a marathon during his senior year of high school.

While attending OU and taking additional classes at Oakland Community College, Josh was working two jobs.

Josh was focusing on health science at OU and was interested in possibly one day becoming a nurse anesthetist.

Family and friends

Two of the most important things to Josh were his family and his friends. Those who knew him said that he was most concerned about the people in his life.

Carmean said Josh’s family was his  number one priority.

“He was the most passionate about his family,” Carmean said. “Family was hands down the most important thing in the world to Josh. He had a very close connection to them.”

She said more people should have the sort of relationship with their families that Josh did.

“I think it’s so important to have a close connection with your family and tell them you love them every day,” Carmean said.

His mother said his friends also played an important role in his life.

“His friends were really the key thing that kept him going,” she said.

A sunny outlook

Another thing that Carmean and Renelle think people could learn from Josh is to have a happier outlook on life.

“Josh was so easygoing and just wanted everyone around him to have a good time,” Carmean said. “He just had fun, and thats what life is all about. Relax and enjoy it”

His mother said that he was one of the happiest people she has ever known and that he rarely got upset about anything.

“He was so giving and happy,” she said. “He had a million-dollar smile.”

Carmean said Josh refrained from letting things get to him too easily in spite of the pressures high school and college students face.

“He was always happy and carefree,” Carmean said. “He didn’t stress out about little things, he never got mad or complained.”

Both women said Josh was someone who lived his life to the fullest, and Carmean hopes other people will follow his example.

“Embrace your life and be thankful for everything that you have, especially your parents,” Carmean said.

Running for Josh

The idea for the memorial race came about after Carmean’s mother, Linda Carmean, suggested they do something in remembrance of Josh. From there, Kelsey Carmean told the Tolan family and they began planning.

“It’s just a way to get everyone together to remember Josh and help support the Tolan family,” she said.

The family said they’re grateful for all of the support from the community since the accident.

Registration for the race is $20. All proceeds from the race will go toward Gift of Life.

“Josh was a caring and giving individual, which is one reason why we chose Gift of Life as the benefactor for the run,” Renelle said.

Gift of Life is a nonprofit organization dedicated to organ donation programs, including signing up organ donors and raising awareness about the amount of people on the waiting list for organs.

According to the Gift of Life state chapter’s website, about 3,000 Michigan residents are currently on the donation waiting list.

The group is also responsible for acting as a liaison between patients, families and doctors. Information on Gift of Life is available at

Josh was an organ donor, which also played a role in the decision to have the proceeds benefit the Michigan chapter of Gift of Life.

“Gift of Life has been so good to us and it’s an amazing thing to know that parts of him are helping others to live their lives,” Renelle Tolan said.

On the day of the race, participants will all release balloons to help celebrate Josh’s birthday. He would have been 21 this year.

For information on the race, e-mail Carmean at [email protected] or visit