OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - One look at Saturday's crowd was all it took to see this was no yard sale. That's what Ocean Springs employees started planning months ago to benefit missing police officer Stephen Bond's family. What they got was an action-packed family friendly event.
"Right after the accident happened, they wanted to try to do what they could to help," said family friend Amy Byrd. "I think they started out by sending out emails and flyers, and this is what's come of it."
What was going to be a simple yard sale turned into thousands of people sifting through two floors, a tent and several rooms of donated items. There was also face painting, a cake walk and plenty of donated food, among other attractions.
The money raised is going to help support Stephen Bond's wife, their 7-year old son, Ethan, and 11-month-old daughter, Rhilee.
He left them behind when he went missing in a boating accident in May. Because his body hasn't been found, his family can't obtain a death certificate for 7 years. That means they'll have to wait that long before they can collect benefits.
The city's fundraiser to ease their financial burden was more successful than anyone had ever imagined. For many people who bought items Saturday, the event wasn't the main attraction.
"I'm kind of a garage sale person," said Sandra Plante, who brought her sons to shop with her. "But when I heard about officer Bond, it just kind of pulled at my heart."
"Overwhelmed," said Bond's mother Susan Vallette in response to the incredible turnout. "It's just unbelievable that the community has come together like this to support Stephen."
Plante said the event is a fun way to pay tribute to Bond's life as an officer.
"He's put his life on the line probably multiple number of times for the community," Plante said. "So why shouldn't we give back to his family."
It's that same spirit that helped organizers quadruple their goal of $5,000. They raised a grand total of $20,590. The event's success isn't just a financial help to the family.
"It attests to how my son lived his life," Vallette said. "He never met a stranger, he was friends with everybody, and all the friends have come out to support him and his family. And I'm just so grateful and thankful."
That makes it just a little easier to move forward.
"I will never understand the loss of Stephen," Vallette said. "But this makes it better knowing that so many people loved him."
There are TWO benefit funds set up to help Bond's family. One is at Region's Bank in Angela Bond's name, and the other is at Hancock Bank, benefiting the children of Officer Stephen Bond.