Community turns out to help Billips

Published 11:26 pm Saturday, August 4, 2007

Nearly a month ago one of Picayune Maroon Tide’s football players lost close family members in a residential fire, Friday the community banded together to raise money to help him in his time of need.

The benefit golf tournament took place at the Millbrook Golf and Country Club in Picayune and featured a full 18 hole course with eight people at a time per hole for a total of 144 participants, said manager Mike Mitchell.

It all started when members of the club got together and decided to have a tournament to raise money to benefit Maroon Tide football standout Johnathan Billips, who lost two members of his family, one of which was his mother, in a residential fire. The fire took place June 30, where Carolyn Billips, 49, and Robert L. Stewart, 56, died in a home located at 117 Gardenia Dr., Nicholson.

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Since that time there have been two benefits for Johnathan Billips to help him financially. The first was a turkey shoot at the VFW and the most recent was the golf tournament Friday.

Mitchell said the event was organized in three weeks. In that time he expected to only attract about 70 people, yet those numbers doubled to about 144.

“Donations from the community have been amazing,” Mitchell said. “People just walk up and say ‘here’ and walk on. I don’t think many towns pull together like this.”

The event was a success in part from Huey Stockstill and the Picayune Touchdown Club and Mitchell said he would like to thank them for that support. Billips’ teamates also went out and found ways to raise funds.

Various avenues were employed to raise funds at the golf tournament such as entry fees, selling refreshments and a hole in one event where participants could win a car. In addition 72 local businesses paid for advertising via signs which also raised money for the cause, Mitchell said.

The event was expected to last about four hours, and outside of the heat factor the weather was suitable for a round of golf. Mitchell said in spite of the heat the turnout was still outstanding.

At the end of the tournament prizes were slated to be handed out, an auction was planned to take place and catfish and gumbo was to be served, Mitchell said.

Billips was at the event and expressed his appreciation to the community. He said the event made him feel as though the community loved and cared about him.

“A lot of people came through in my time of need,” Billips said.

Individuals and churches have also pulled together to help out, Billips said.

“I really appreciate what everyone in the town has done for me, and their prayers,” Billips said.

With a new football season coming up he is looking to the future. This summer he said he lost about 25 pounds to make himself faster and allow him to play both sides of the ball. The upcoming season is one thing about the new school year he is looking forward to since he said he is confident Maroon Tide has a strong team.

Billips is going into his junior year this school year but he still has his eyes set to the future and college. He said he plans to play hard and work towards a scholarship with a college, but no college in particular.

“Whichever way the Lord leads me, you know,” Billips said.