The absence of loved ones from the Thanksgiving Day table is the harsh reality for the families of two Peach County deputies gunned down Nov. 6 in Byron.
“It’s awful. This madness has to stop,” said Joel Yarbrough, owner of The LeatherMan motorcycle dealership in Eastman.
In September, Yarbrough hosted a benefit motorcycle ride for the family of Eastman police Officer Tim Smith, which drew about 600 people.
On Dec. 10, he is organizing the Back the Blue ride for Sondron and Smallwood, who was a longtime friend.
The slayings of people sworn to protect infuriate Yarbrough.
“Something’s going to have to happen,” Yarbrough said of the escalation of killing of law enforcement officers. “We need to let law enforcement officers know we’ve got their backs.”
Houston County sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Chapman, a longtime friend of Sondron’s, also wants to bring the community together to support law enforcement.
“We didn’t face this stuff 15 or 20 years ago,” said Chapman, who also recently met U.S. Marshal Pat Carothers, who was killed while serving a warrant in Long County Friday.
Chapman is coordinating with David Rutherford, the owner of Gold Cup Bowling Center, to host a family benefit Thursday from 1-11 p.m.
Six people can bowl for two hours for $50, including shoes. Proceeds will benefit the Smallwoods and Sondrons.
“It’s a family thing. Have your meal and then enjoy the fellowship with the family,” Chapman said.
A silent auction also will be held during Thursday’s bowling.
“We felt like we had to do something,” Davis said.
They are pooling their talents and resources and offering free family photographs Saturday for current and retired public safety workers.
The women want to make sure the officers and firefighters have pictures with their families.
“With their jobs, they never know if they’re coming home,” Davis said.
Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, a team of photographers will be available at the farms at 1195 Taylors Mill Road in Fort Valley.
Light refreshments, games and music will provide entertainment and the opportunity for fellowship while waiting to be photographed.
Those planning to attend are encouraged to sign up on Facebook at WeDoWeddings.
To specify a time so that enough photographers will be available, click on the “Going” tab of the event “Family Photo for EVERY Officer!”
“We really just felt like they needed to be thanked,” Davis said.