Capt. Jack Long has an extended family — more than 2,000 of which showed support during a relief fundraiser downtown Friday.
A member of the Columbus Police force for more than 25 years, Long was recently diagnosed with cancer. Since then, public safety officials have pulled together to raise money to help cover lost income and medical expenses. Several bar crawls and other fundraisers have been held since Long's illness was announced.
On Friday, more than 2,000 people came to the the parking lot of 1000 Bay Avenue at 10th Street for a relief fundraiser. Country's Barbecue employees donated their time to provide plates for $10 that included coleslaw, barbecue and baked beans. Officials on scene said workers prepared for 3,000 plates and expected tickets to be sold out before the end of the fundraiser.
A raffle that includes prizes such as a $200 tattoo, a grill and gift cards to local restaurants is also ongoing.
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"I think that we're going to sell 3,000 plus tickets, and then we've still got the raffles," Chief Ricky Boren said. "We've had officers work in an off-duty capacity and donate the money they make to the cause. He's a great part of this department, and we're going to rally behind him."
During the fundraiser, Long sat under a tent and greeted dozens of people as they went to get food, many expressing thanks for personal or professional help he has been able to provide over the years.
"It's great to have family this big, and that's what I consider everyone here to be — family," Long said. "They've taken care of me and done things for me ever since this came out. That's what family does."
Friday's relief fundraiser was not the last event that will be held for Long's benefit. On Saturday, a "Dunk-a-Cop" tank will be hosted by Living Room, Bootleggers and Twisted from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. Columbus Police Officers Mike O'Keefe and Joey Austin will sit in a dunking tank near the intersection of 11th Street and Broad Street. For $5, anyone can take three shots at the officers.
Officer O'Keefe said he donated his time because of his respect and love for Long.
"I've known him for most of my life. He's been a good role model and a good friend. If you care about your community you have to give back," he said. "Besides, who doesn't want to throw something at a police officer and get him wet?"
The Fraternal Order of Police has also set up an account at CB&T that can be used by the general public to donate money. Those who are interested in giving to the cause can go to any CB&T and ask to deposit to the account.
Many public officials have emphasized Long's outstanding reputation and service to the community during the effort to raise money. Motorsquad Officer Gene House, who has worked as Long's partner for the past four years, said Long has been one of the best friends he's ever had.
"I consider him a close friend, one of the best friends I've ever had," House said. "He's been there for me through a lot of things. This is the least I can do to give back to him."
Between greeting friends and thanking attendees, Norma Long expressed her gratitude to the Columbus community for supporting her family through the recovery process.
"I wanted to thank everybody — not just these guys, but the general public — for coming out," Norma Long said. "I hope that the Lord will bless everyone here."