In the aftermath of a family tragedy, friends and community support for a Southaven police officer and his family are coming forward in the form of barbeque and golf balls.
Lt. Brad Sutherlen and his wife Melissa last month lost their 12-year-old daughter Bailey and Melissa’s mother Kimberly Holliday in a four-vehicle crash in Kemper County. The collision on U.S. Highway 45 near Scooba also killed a 67-year-old woman from Altoona, Iowa. Several people were also hurt, including Sutherlen’s son Bentley, who is having reconstruction work done to his face.
The community is coming together to help the family of a police officer now needing to support his family who is having to walk through a tough time in their lives. Saturday’s benefit fundraiser at the Snowden House in Southaven was one means of the community giving back to someone who daily gives himself to them.
“It’s a bit overwhelming, just all of the support from the city, the citizens and everything,” Sutherlen said Saturday afternoon. “It means a lot that everybody would step up to help. There’s still real people in this world.”
The tragic accident took place on June 5, Sutherlen said, on the way home to Southaven after having a fun time on the beach.
“My mother-in-law, my daughter and my son, and my sister-in-law and her daughter, were on the way back from Orange Beach (Alabama),” Sutherlen explained. “A car crossed the median and hit them. It was a four-car crash, he hit other people as well.”
The trip to Orange Beach is an annual visit the family takes.
“Grandma always stayed with them extra time,” said Sutherlen. “She wanted to spend more time with them at the beach every year, but this year was a little different.”
Saturday’s benefit was organized with the help of two local truck drivers, Dave Tullos and Greg Guy, who said much of the early planning was done while they were working on the road.
“David came up with the idea,” Guy explained. “We all drive trucks, and we all talk on the phone every day. He came up with the idea and said we need to do something right after it happened. We just put our heads together, started planning and started calling people we knew. It really blossomed into a big event, and we hope to raise a lot of money.”
Tullos added his connection from Sutherlen comes through his brother.
“Brad’s brother and I work together at Kroger in the warehouse and that’s how I got to know him,” Tullos said. “He’s a good guy.”
Saturday’s event had everything donated to help the Sutherlen family. The grills were donated and BBQ plates were provided by John David Wheeler, a Southaven alderman who is also a Pitmaster for Natural Born Grillers and with Memphis Barbeque Company.
A poker run and raffles were held, all to place money in the hands of the Sutherlens at the end of the day.
“Brad is going to have to be off work taking care of his son,” said Guy. “A lot of people don't think about it, but life goes on every day he’s not working. The mortgage company is not telling him he doesn’t have to pay the mortgage. He’s not asked us to help him. He’s a good man and a proud man so he doesn't have his hand out. Instead of ponying up and paying for it, we decided to have the community raise some money to help him and his wife.”
For Sutherlen and his family, Saturday’s activities were a testament to the good side of people that oftentimes does not get the visibility it deserves.
“People don’t realize how many good people are still out there,” Sutherlen said. “Everybody sees the news and all they see is the bad stuff. They don’t see this side of it. It means a lot to my family. The guys did it because they wanted to help us and show support for us. It means a lot.”
All of the funds raised Saturday went directly to the Sutherlen family at the end of the day, with Guy adding people who want to continue donating toward the family may do so by contacting either himself, Greg Guy or Dave Tullos on Facebook.
Another chance to help out the Sutherlen family will come up in the form of a golf tournament on Aug. 9. An event called Birdies for Bailey and Kim will take place at the Timber Truss Golf Course in Olive Branch. It is a two-person golf scramble with a 1 p.m. shotgun start and the proceeds to help the family. For more information, contact Alan at Timber Truss Golf Course, 662-895-3530. You may also contact Jeremy Bond at 662-895-1261, Brent Vickers at 901-461-2583 or Joel Rich at 901-493-0421.
The golf course is located at 9425 Plantation Road in Olive Branch.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.