GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippians came out in force Friday to support one of Gulfport's finest. Hundreds showed up at a benefit fish fry for a Gulfport police officer who is battling colon cancer. It didn't take long for volunteers to run out of food.
The line stretched out the door at the VFW Hall on 23rd Street. The large crowd caught the volunteers off guard.
"It has been busy. We were expecting maybe 500-600 and right now, we're running out of things," said Chandy McGill, a volunteer who works in the Gulfport Police Community Relations Department.
They scrambled to fry cases of catfish and keep up with hundreds of orders. Friends and members of the Gulfport Police Department organized the Fish Fry to help one of their own. Sergeant Davy Kirkland was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer last month.
"He's a good guy. He works hard and he's part of the family," said Tony Wallace, a Gulfport Police Evidence Technician who bought two plates of food.
"This is a very good cause, and everyone should come out and support it," said Mary Underhill of Gulfport.
In less than three hours, exhausted volunteers sold more than 1,300 plates of catfish, hush puppies, baked beans and dessert. For Davy Kirkland and his wife, the huge turnout was emotionally overwhelming.
"Just unbelievable. When I pulled up, I was in tears at all of the people and all the different police cars from different counties showing up. Amazing. We're so blessed," said Audrey Kirkland.
"It's amazing. I'm humbled by the fact, trying to find some way to use this for something more than me you know," said Davy Kirkland as tears filled his eyes.
Kirkland said his diagnoses came as a shock. In a matter of hours, he went from being one of the strongest and healthiest guys in the police department to being the sickest and weakest.
"And now through this experience, it's actually made me more mentally and spiritually strong. So I traded one strength for another, I guess," said Davy Kirkland.
Now, the man who has fought crime for years is relying on that faith and community support, as he prepares for this toughest battle yet. Kirkland will undergo chemotherapy treatments in mid-October. He and his wife have five children.
The fish fry raised more than $6,000. Supporters are also selling "Team Davy" bracelets and they've set up an account for Davy Kirkland at Bancorp South. A 5-K run and silent auction for the family will take place October 20.