Fish fry benefits playground in memory of young drowning victim

ZACHARY, LA (WAFB) - The City of Zachary and volunteers hosted a fish fry Friday to help raise money for a playground that will pay tribute to a 7-year-old boy who drowned during his family's duck hunting trip in January.

A fish fry in Zachary usually draws a crowd, but throw one to help someone else, and you'll be lucky to get your hands on a plate before they're all gone. Stephanie "Beetle" Fisher helped organize the event. She's with the Hug Your People Foundation, a local group that helps families who have lost loved ones tragically.

"The goal in my head at first was 500 tickets, and they accidentally printed 800, and now we are at about 1,500," Fisher said.

Fisher is also dear friends with Tatum Vince, who lost her husband, Darrin, sister, Madeline Hemba, and nephew, Joseph Hemba, 7, when their boat capsized. Mayor David Amrhein was Madeline's boss.

"It's hard. I can't imagine what she [Tatum] is going through, but we are going to get through it because we are a close-knit community, and that's what this is all about," Amrhein said.

Zachary Police Chief David McDavid says it's what he refers to as "community policing." He joined first responders and city volunteers in preparing the feast. Organizers say all the food was donated. People chipped in $10 per plate to help raise money for a memorial playground to pay tribute to Joseph, a little boy who loved to hunt, fish, and play with his friends.

"This is Zachary. We come together. You see everybody working together, fire, police, city entities here to work and help raise funds to help make a memory of this family," McDavid said.

"It's been overwhelming for me that I didn't even have to ask for help. People were just calling and saying, 'I want to do something. I want to do something,'" Fisher said.

Those who didn't volunteer were sure to swing buy and contribute. A fundraiser that set out to raise $5,000 walked away with triple that amount in just two hours. "It couldn't be for a better cause," Amrhein said.

The fish fry was one of four fundraisers planned to help fund the playground, which will cost an estimated $86,000. Amrhein says half of the cost will be paid for through a gr ant. The playground will be located behind the Historic Zachary Depot. The city hopes to have it built by September.

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