Citizens of Southeast Texas and Port Arthur Police Department officers gathered at Mid County Chrysler Jeep Dodge Saturday, Oct. 5, to show their support for Officer Ty Smith of the Beaumont Police Department.
Smith was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia less than a month ago. A Beaumont Police officer for more than six years, Smith joined the Southeast Texas Jeepers, a group of more than 1,300 Jeep enthusiasts that often raise funds for worthy causes, a year ago. This time the worthy cause was his own.
“We’re trying to raise money for medical costs and to help pay his bills,” said Shanna Jones, Jeepers event coordinator. “The Jeepers get involved in so many cool things,” said Allen Tate, general manager at Mid County Chrysler Jeep Dodge, who explained that he was thrilled to allow the Jeepers to use Mid County’s lot. “With everything police officers do for us, it’s super important for us to help them out.”
Officer Tony Legnon of the Port Arthur Police Department explained the tight-knit relationship that police officers share regardless of what city they work for. “I’ve never met Ty before,” said Legnon, who arranged to use the PAPD Bear SWAT vehicle to grab the attention of passersby Saturday.
“When I heard about it (Smith’s leukemia) and heard he was a Beaumont officer, I said I’ve got to do something. We’re both jeep lovers and both police officers — that’s enough reason for me. I knew this SWAT van would help bring attention to the cause.”
Wearing a surgical mask and gloves because of his weakened immune system, Smith, 35, of Lumberton, was present at Saturday’s Show and Shine event.
According to the American Cancer Society website, “Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), also called acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is a cancer that starts from white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow. “Leukemia cells usually invade the blood fairly quickly. They can then spread to other parts of the body.”
According to the Leukemia and Lymphona Society, almost all patients with leukemia require some transfusions during their care. For this reason, there will be a Lifeshare bus where blood donations can be made in Smith’s name at a second Jeepers fundraiser on Oct. 19 at Max Bowl bingo hall, 3500 Regional Drive in Port Arthur, said Michelle Powell, Jeepers member and general manager of Max Bowl. Powell said the event would include a washer tournament, silent auction, door prizes, raffle drawing and car show.
“He puts his life on the line every day being a police officer,” Powell said. “If the community can help give back to him, it should be well worth it.”
Powell said the event, which will start at 11 a.m. and run until dark, would include activities for children as well. Smith is currently on a leave of absence from work, said Reed Moity, promoter for Southeast Texas Jeepers.
“The (BPD) officers have all donated their vacation time so that he can get a paycheck,” Moity said. Smith, who said he would be undergoing intensive chemotherapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, also said he was humbled by the support he has received from Southeast Texans.
For more information about the Oct. 19 fundraiser, contact Michelle Powell at (409) 722- 8300.