Photo by Jeylin White
Mundy’s Mill JROTC Cadet Col. De-Nasia Grayson made posters in support of the program’s school-wide fund-raiser for fellow cadet, 17 year-old Maurice Freeman, who suffered serve injuries, due to a hit-and-run accident, in October.
The Mundy’s Mill High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) has been conducting a fund-raiser all week to help one of its own.
Mundy’s Mill junior, and first-year cadet, Maurice Freeman, 17, was a victim of a hit-and-run driver, in October.
Freeman was struck by a car while crossing Ga. Hwy. 54, and was left in the road severely injured, less than half a mile from the high school.
According to Freeman’s mother, Erica Browning, the accident left the Jonesboro teenager with a broken skull and blood around his brain, a broken back, broken pelvis, broken tailbone, and a lacerated kidney.
Police are still looking for the person responsible for leaving the teenager in the road to die.
When Freeman was asked, if he is bitter or angry about the driver not being found and punished, the teenager responded calmly. “I don’t really sweat it,” he said. “It happened, so I’m just going with it.”
In the meantime, Freeman said, he has minimal pain and is busy recovering from his injuries, going to rehab twice a week.
Due to the severity of Freeman’s injuries, Browning said medical bills have spiked to $200,000, putting the family in financial distress. She said only one person is working in the family. Now, she said, doctors have discovered a growth on Freeman’s spine that could cause paralysis.
“I’m taking him back and fourth to the hospital,” said Browning, obviously frustrated. “Insurance only covers a portion of his medical expenses –– and I don’t have the money.” She added that her son’s Cat Scans alone cost $400 each.
The news of the family’s financial worries reached Senior Master Sgt. Dennis Keaton, an aerospace science instructor at Mundy’s Mill. “I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries, and I asked if it was OK for me to take up a collection,” said Keaton.
He said the perfect opportunity came around when Freeman turned 17, this past Tuesday. He decided to do something special for the cadet’s birthday, and collected money from ROTC students and instructors.
“This could have been me,” said Keaton. “My heart goes out to the family.” He said he took the money he collected to Freeman and his family on Wednesday, along with an arrangement of balloons.
From Keaton’s gesture, the entire Mundy’s Mill JROTC cadet corps decided to take it a step further, and host a week-long fund-raiser, which concludes today.
“We’re asking for anything people can spare,” said Cadet Col. De-Nasia Grayson. “We’ll take pennies, dimes, nickels, Canadian [money], whatever people can give, we’ll take.”
Mundy’s Mill Principal William Greene said that, through the week, cadets have collected donations during their lunch periods, and have handed out flyers and made announcements over the school’s intercom system. On Thursday, he added, 500-plus cadets dressed in uniform to honor Freeman and highlight the fund-raising effort.
According to Greene, Mundy’s Mill JROTC program is the largest in the Southeastern region, and the seventh-largest in the nation.
Cadet Lt. Col. Charles Swinney, a junior at Mundy’s Mill, said he was sadden to hear the news of the severity of Freeman’s injuries. “This fund-raiser was a collaboration with all the cadets,” Swinney said. “He is like family to us.”
Fellow cadet, Grayson, said before opening the fund-raiser to the entire school, every JROTC cadet had to give, at least, a dollar to the cause. “That’s $500 right off the back,” he said. “But people have been giving more.”
Browning seemed to be overwhelmed by the gesture –– fighting back tears as she got word from Keaton that the cadets had taken it upon themselves to conduct a fund-raiser on her son’s behalf.
“It was totally unexpected,” said an elated Browning. “It just goes to show that people really do care. Mundy’s Mill has always shown love,” she said. “As soon as you walk through the doors, you feel that.”
Freeman –– who is being home-schooled until he recovers fully –– said he is grateful for his classmates’ generosity and is awaiting the day when he will be able to return to school.
“I miss going to school functions,” said the teenager. “Staying at home is boring.”