BBQ fundraiser to benefit Lance Hillman

By HASKEL BURNS,

It’s been said that true friends and family are the ones who step up to help in the direst of circumstances.

That’s certainly the case for Lance Hillman, who was involved May 21 in an automobile accident that resulted in a brain injury that left him in a coma for more than two weeks. After he was transferred to Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, several of Hillman’s closest friends and family members got together to plan a barbeque dinner fundraiser to help with the Hillmans’ medical and travel expenses.

The dinner, which is organized by Petal High School baseball coach Shane Kelly and Pearl River Community College baseball coach Michael Avalon, will be held from 5-6:30 p.m. July 12 in the parking lot of the Petal High School fieldhouse. Dinner plates with a chicken quarter or pulled pork sandwich with potato salad and baked beans will be available for $10 a piece, with all proceeds going to Hillman’s expenses.

“It was brought to my attention about the medical and travel expenses the Hillman family were taking on, and I saw an opportunity for our players to give back to the community and support one of their own teammates and families from Petal,” Kelly said. “We are a very close community here at Petal and we take care of each other like family. That’s what makes us unique.”

Although the Hillmans live in Richton, Lance’s wife Sharon Hillman is a teacher in the Petal School District. The couple has two sons – Cade, 16, and Garrett, 14 – who attend school in Petal. Cade plays football and baseball for Petal, while Garrett is active in football, soccer and showchoir.

“(Lance) is starting to do a lot better here lately,” said Avalon, who is Lance Hillman’s cousin. “He’s trying to get all of his functions back, and I think he’s doing pretty good, but he’s still got a long row to hoe.

“I think he’s going to be okay, but he’s having a hard time with his speech. He’s getting back all his motor functions – he’s able to stand now and he’s able to say some words. So he’s on the road to recovery; it’s just one of those things that when you deal with the spine and the brain, obviously it’s a major deal.”

Lance Hillman’s sister, Kelly Avalon Hawkins, also is raising funds by selling T-shirts on her Facebook page. The shirts can be purchased for $15 each at www.facebook.com/kellyavalonhawkins.

As far as the barbeque dinner, Avalon is optimistic for a big turnout.

“With Sharon working at the school, we wanted to obviously do it in the Petal area, where the family is known and the kids go to school,” he said. “I think that community is going to step up and help.”