GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A barbecue with friends and family served as a bit of light through the recent pain and loss of Janaya Thompson. The 5-year-old girl was found strangled in an abandoned trailer in Gulfport on Thursday morning. The cookout was put together by community members in an effort to raise funds for the girl's family.
The whole idea of a cookout started with close family friend Andrea Bradley. When she imagined herself in the situation that Janaya's mother is facing, she knew she needed to help.
"She's going to need it, you know. This hit everybody. It touched the children's hearts, and you know, I have kids myself. My children are here, so you know I have a niece, and I mean it's heart breaking. It's devastating, so let's pull our community together and do something different," said Bradley.
Bradley had no idea what kind of response she would get. As soon as word got out, community members pulled together to make this barbecue special. People donated food, volunteered to entertain and Chrissy Rollman even brought her face painting skills.
"I just felt in my heart that I really needed to be a part of it," said Rollman.
She hoped her efforts would lift the spirits of a saddened and devastated community.
"It just touches my heart that everyone can come together like this," said Rollman.
The cookout even attracted out-of-towners Latiffany Stockdale and her husband from Atlanta. She said her lack of connection to the family didn't take away from the impact of their story.
"I did nothing but think about the child and her mom, because I have a son. So, quite naturally, I just feel drawn to doing whatever I can do," said Stockdale.
Stockdale and her husband delayed their trip to Texas to help with the cookout.
This outing restored Bradley's faith, reminding her that when worst comes to worst, those closest to you will pull you through.
"There's still a chance out here for our community, so hopefully, this will make a difference," said Bradley.
Bradley said if you missed out on the barbecue, you can donate to a Hancock Bank account under the name Janaya Thompson.
So far, no one has been arrested for Janaya Thompson's murder. Two persons of interest are behind bars on charges unrelated to the crime.