FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — A fish fry at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds brought in more than $20,000 for the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Star Charity.
The non-profit raises money to help families of sheriffs and law enforcement families.
A fish fry held on Sunday, Jan. 22 by Dewey Destin’s Seafood Restaurant raised money for Cpl Ray Hamilton’s family. Hamilton was shot and killed on Dec. 24 during a domestic violence-related situation.
Parker Destin with Dewey Destin’s said cooks and volunteers served more than 1,300 meals throughout the afternoon.
“I mean it was just absolutely better than we had ever hoped for. We were cautiously optimistic that the community would show, but I mean, they all did and that’s in spite of the rain,” said Paker Destin. “We had people showing up at 11 trying to do the early bird thing and by 12 we had a line of probably 500 people and it just never went away.”
Plates were $10 with people leaving more in donations. The charity said the event raised just over $20,000 with people waiting in line for hours to get a plate of fried seafood.
“There was a line all the way through the building and doubled all the way back around to the exit doors,” said Lt. Dennis Fields, president of the OCSO Sheriff’s Star Charity. “I knew that people had waited for an hour to get food and a friend and retired deputy had mentioned that he had waited for two hours.”
“People were standing in the rain with their umbrellas to be fed. I mean it was overwhelming,” said Destin.
Destin said the restaurant and 25 volunteers served around 700 pounds of food.
“We went through 400 pounds of Mahi and about 300 pounds of shrimp with a lot of French fries and hush puppies,” said Destin.
Lt. Fields said this was the largest show of support he has seen in 5 years of working with the charity.
“It really reinforces why we do what we do,” said Lt. Fields. “The show of support that we’ve seen lets us know that citizens do appreciate the job that we do and when we lose a deputy like Ray or any of the other deputies that we’ve lost, the community loses a member too.”
Moving forward, Lt. Fields said the group is making memorial bracelets and a challenge coin to continue financial efforts for Cpl. Hamilton’s family.
“I think the reason we did it was that I think we understand that the men and women in uniform are duty-bound to go into harm’s way on our collective behalf,” said Destin. “I think that creates a reciprocal duty on us as members of the Community to do whatever we can in the event of a tragedy to help these heroes’ families try to start the process of putting their lives back together.”
The charity can be reached online for additional resources and information.