FORT WORTH — If you were playing just a few lanes over from them at the Don Carter Bowling complex in Fort Worth on Sunday, you might have thought the large group of keglers was just there for a good time.
But it was actually serious business that brought them there to raise money for D.D. Willingham.
“I just love her to death, and I hate that she is having to go through this," lamented friend and former co-worker May Lynn Whitlock.
Willingham is a Fort Worth police officer afflicted with terminal cancer. Fellow Officer Rocsana Ferren, who was part of the fundraiser, had this to say about Willingham: "She has given a lot of years to this department and this city."
Unable to work until retirement, Willingham’s only option is to purchase enough time credits to let her retire. But that would cost about $32,000, and she doesn’t have that kind of money.
What she does have though, are some very loyal former co-workers.
"She's a sister; a sister in blue. That's how we roll," Ferren said.
She and the others behind this effort are determined to get Willingham to retirement.
"It’s an emotional rollercoaster," said Willingham’s son, Kenyon Willingham. "It has been overwhelming. She cried a minute ago, but she's okay."
He said it has been amazing to see the outpouring from his mom's extended family — the ones who are bound together by a badge.
"This is a family. Point-blank, it's a family," Ferren said. "If someone in your blood family had struggles, you would come together for them. Well it's no different for us."
Willingham’s colleagues plan more fundraisers and have also set up an online crowdfunding account that has collected more than $10,000 in just three days.