ASHDOWN, Ark.—Community, city, county and state lines proved to be no barrier for thousands of residents who came to Ashdown Saturday to help a seriously injured Arkansas State Police trooper in need.
Organizations even from as far away Ohio participated in the Prayers for G37 Fundraiser & Benefit for Arkansas State Police Trooper Cpl. Clayton McWilliams and his wife Lila.
As of Saturday evening, McWilliams had just undergone his most recent surgery at the University of Arkansas Medical Science Hospital in Little Rock for serious injuries he received Jan. 3 in single-vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 71,north of Wilton, Ark., said Emily Hamilton of the Arkansas State Police Foundation Spouses Auxiliary.
Richard Bowman, Arden Community Volunteer Fire Department chief and one of the fundraiser's organizers, said that he believed the event would be able to use all 20,000 square feet of cafeteria space loaned from Ashdown High School
"Even though this event was set to get started at 5 p.m., we already had people rolling up to the doorways by at 4 to 4:15 p.m.," said. "Every time we've had a fundraiser we have always experienced early turnout
Besides the chili dinner and auction fundraiser, Bowman said there's also a ticket raffle for two rifles.
"We need to raise money not only to help Clayton with medical expenses, but also for travel expenses, family expenses," Bowman said. "Clayton and his wife Lila have lived in Arden for the last five years now. Since we both served as first responders to emergencies, we all develop sort of a mutual kinship with each other and this is why we all want to help each other. "When I first heard what happened to Clayton, I started to picture what his family may be going through and it hurts your heart. I first heard what happened to Clayton by phone call and since then, we been getting updates from Lila on Facebook."
Besides the fundraiser attendees, Bowman said people from throughout all Little River County as well as other counties made, cooked and brought the chili as well as desserts.
"This evening is a perfect time for chili since it's cold and wet and windy outside," he said. "I also want to thank Nutt Auction Services company in Texarkana, as well as all those many who have come by to donate both in cash and by check."
Macy Kennemore, an eighth grader from Texas Middle School, Texarkana, Texas, said McWilliams in one of her cousins.
"Right now I keep up with his condition on Facebook and my dad has been to the hospital to see him,"she said. "From the moment I heard what happened I was hoping that he would be all right and would pull through."
As the evening continued Bowman said he became more and more overwhelmed with gratitude for the turnout.
"I want to say that I'm grateful to everyone who has come out to contribute to - regardless weather its been a monetary contribution, for with gifts or prayers - it's all been terrific to see this kind of community support."
Presently, McWilliams remains in intensive care in Little Rock.
For more information on how to contribute Bowman at 870-648-6281.