Bradley, Sarah Grace, Heather, Kensley and CPD officer Kenny Brewer pose for a family picture. Nine-month-old Kensley was diagnosed with a brain tumor in January and is at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis. CPD is holding a raffle to raise money for the Brewers' travel during Kensley's treatment. Photo by: Courtesy photo/Barb's Photography
March 14, 2017 10:10:55 AM
"Happy" is the word Columbus police officer Kenny Brewer uses to describe his 9-month-old daughter Kensley.
"It's all she knows how to do is smile," Brewer said.
This is even though Kensley is at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis where she is being treated for high-risk anaplastic astrocytoma brain cancer.
Since Kensley's diagnosis in January, her mother has stayed in Memphis with her while her father works and her two older siblings stay with their grandmother.
"Honestly, I was scared (when I found out)," her mother Heather Brewer said. "I didn't really know what to think. Sometimes I just sit here and -- it's still so hard to believe it's happening to us."
Kenny's response to the diagnosis was different.
"I guess my first thought was, 'What do we do?'" he said.
"I can't fix her," he added. "All I can do is provide for her."
Kenny works part-time at the Columbus Police Department, where he began as a full-time patrol officer nearly 10 years ago. He dialed back part-time last year and also works full-time as a mechanic at Modular Transportation. Since Heather had to quit her job, Kenny's work is supporting a family of five, including 10-year-old Bradley and 5-year-old Sarah Grace.
Kenny spends his weeks working, and every other weekend he spends with Bradley and Sarah Grace in Columbus. The weekends he doesn't spend with them, he drives to Memphis to be with Kensley so that Heather can spend that time in Columbus with their other two children. The back-and-forth is constant.
So when his fellow CPD officers learned about Kensley's diagnosis, they planned a fundraiser to help raise money for the Brewers' travel to and from Memphis. They reached out to friends, relatives and other contacts with resources to get prizes for a raffle, which now include a choice of a char-broil four-burner gas grill donated by Lowe's, a diamond ring donated by an anonymous jeweler's family and an AR-15 rifle custom-made by Rusty Gunz -- though the last prize is contingent on the winner passing a background check, said Community Police Officer Rhonda Sanders.
CPD is also selling $5 raffle tickets for five $100 giftcards to Mugshots, which people may purchase at the CPD.
CPD will hold the drawing for the prizes on April 1 at the police department.
Officers are reaching out to other law enforcement agencies, as well.
"We've had police officers from Memphis to ... New York (sending) for tickets and wanted a chance for this gun," Sanders said.
But the most important thing, she said, is that the officers and the community are rallying around the Brewer family.
"Kenny's my brother," Sanders said. "He's my brother in law enforcement. ... We become one as a family, and we look out for each other."
CPD Capt. James Bush has been Kenny's supervisor for about three years. He described Kenny as one of the best police officers he knows -- someone responsible and with good people skills.
"His family has become my family," Bush said. "His kids are like my kids."
Now Bush spends every day with Kenny, talking with him and making sure his family's physical and emotional needs are being met.
Even though St. Jude Children's Hospital doesn't charge families for medical care, there are still bills at home to pay, travel expenses, food and everything else it takes to keep families with small children afloat -- and, of course, those are far from the Brewers' only worries.
Kensley is still smiling, Kenny said, but she's tired all the time and she has a hard time keeping food down. Though she normally stays with Heather in temporary St. Jude housing, she was readmitted to the hospital Monday with a 100.7 degree fever, though it has gone down since.
It's also hard for the Brewers to be away from each other and for Heather to be away from her two older children.
"We do the FaceTime thing, but it's not the same," Heather said.
Bradley constantly worries about Kensley, which distracts him from school, and Sarah Grace misses her parents.
"They get really emotional about it," Heather added. "...(Bradley) worries a lot. He worries about things he can't control. And it's hard on Sarah Grace. ... She doesn't want me to leave and she doesn't understand why I'm here."
Heather also worries about her husband -- not just because being a police officer can be a dangerous job, but because he works so much between two jobs.
"He works and works and works," she said "...He'll go without sleep because he knows he's got to make up for what I'm not doing. I feel bad for the other two because they want to be at their own home in their own rooms, but it's hard for them to do that right now because he's working a lot and it's hard for them to be at home."
Still, the family is extremely grateful to those who have come to their aid, including the citizens involved in the fundraiser.
"The support, it means everything in the world," Kenny said.
To enter the raffle or donate to the Brewers, go to the Municipal Complex Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., or donate at any BankFirst in Columbus.
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