PORT ARTHUR —
When Ty Smith and his wife Alicia joined the Southeast Texas Jeepers little more than a year ago, the couple thought they’d be spending weekends — or any day they could — riding with other club members along the sandy Gulf shores enjoying the salty air.
Though there were plenty of those days since they joined the popular organization for Jeep enthusiasts, the Smiths and other club members spent Saturday in Port Arthur on the concrete parking lot of Mid County Chrysler Dodge Jeep.
There, friends and family gathered at a fundraiser designed to not only showcase Smith’s love of jeeps, but mainly to raise money for his medical bills.
Smith, 35, was diagnosed about three weeks ago with lymphoblastic leukemia, a rapidly progressing blood cancer that results when abnormal white blood cells (leukemia cells) accumulate in the bone marrow.
Because his immune system is compromised, Smith wears a surgical mask and gloves to avoid illness.
That didn’t stop him from traveling to Port Arthur Saturday, where he and his family were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.
“I am so very thankful the community, friends and family came out to support me,” Smith said. “There are tons of people here, and tons of people that I don’t.”
Smith is a six-year veteran patrolman with the Beaumont Police Department, but not working now because of the intensive treatment prescribed by his doctors.
He’s under going 38 weeks of chemotherapy, eight of that intensive.
In addition to showing off their Jeeps, club members sold links, raffle tickets, anything they could do to raise money.
Event organizer Shanna Jones said Mid County Chrysler Dodge Jeep donated the food for the event, and volunteered their parking lot for use by the club, which numbers about 1,300 people from Southeast Texas.
Many of them were in Port Arthur.
“It’s overwhelming, the support. When we first joined we just thought we’d be riding around with new acquaintances, but begin to realize how close everyone was. I want to just say a big thank you to everybody here. It is truly amazing. Just keep the prayers coming,” Alicia Smith said.
Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Smith’s medical fund can call Shanna Jones at 409-344-1893 for more information.