Hartselle Police Department presented Kayleigh McClendon’s family with a $6,387.20 check from the “No Shave November: Prayers for Kayleigh” fundraiser. Back row, from left, Roger Speake, Chip Reynolds, Justin Barley, Beth Rabb, Bill Rabb, Micah Host, Kel Roberts and Scott Anderson. Front row, from left: Daniel Parker, Tom Sparks, Carrow McClendon, Tim McClendon, James Holladay and Michael Hudson. |Submitted

No Shave November: Prayers for Kayleigh raised record funds for HPD

By Lauren Thornton Tobin

Hartselle police officers on Dec. 1 donated $6,387.20 to Kayleigh McClendon’s family from the annual “No Shave November” fundraiser, this year titled “Prayers for Kayleigh.”

Though they have been participating in this fundraiser for a few years now, this is the second year that funds have gone to an individual person and family, said Sgt. Alan McDearmond.

McClendon, a 7-year-old Hartselle resident and Crestline student, was diagnosed with brain cancer this year, and when officers were deciding who to raise funds for, McDearmond said an officer mentioned Kayleigh and the decision was unanimous.

“It was a collective decision from the start,” he said. “Cops love kids; we’ll do anything for a kid.”

“Prayer for Kayleigh” brought in the most donations than any fundraiser before, McDearmond said.

“Just a little over an hour after I put it on Facebook, (the post) had over 10,000 shares,” he said. “It was amazing.”

When the fundraiser began, Kayleigh was still fighting her battle against cancer, but just two weeks in, she died.

Officers had never had a case like this, but McDearmond said from the beginning, they thought the family might need help with the financial side of things.

“We always assumed there’s a lot of medical bills associated with her, so we really assumed the money would go to medical bills anyway,” he said.

School Resource Officer Michael Hudson participated for the first time this year and raised the most money of the officers with a total of $1,699.45.

Just by looking at the numbers and increase of silliness throughout Hartselle schools during the month of November, it appears all his time in a school and student setting paid off for Hudson.

“We had our Red Ribbon Pep Rally and I told the kids, ‘If I raise $500, I’ll dye my beard purple,’” he said, adding that one day he brought inflatables for students at Burleson to donate $1 and play on the inflatables for P.E. class. “We did a hat day one day and (students) paid a dollar to wear a hat. We raised a little more than $1,000 doing stuff like that.”

Hudson said high-schoolers also got to donate and participate in Hat Day, and he gathered funds from friends on social media who saw him braving the beard.

Though he fared well in the end, Hudson may not be growing any more facial hair anytime soon.

“This year is my first time doing it and I wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for her; I’m not real big on beards,” he said and laughed.

Hudson said growing his beard out was nothing short of a challenge, “especially when your wife hates it.”

“It’s aggravating, you know it’s there,” he said. “It took me about an hour and five or 10 minutes to get everything shaved off. I guess if you grow a lot of facial hair, you probably have stuff to take care of that but I did not.”

Though the process may not have been pleasant, Hudson said there is no family more deserving than the McClendon’s.

“Kayleigh’s family has been such an example to everyone else in how to deal with devastation in your life. I never heard them say ‘why me,’ I never heard them complain or make excuses about things,” he said. “It was always ‘God’s in control and he has a plan. Whatever that plan may be, we respect His wishes.’ They handled it in a way it was an easy family to help.”

Kayleigh’s parents weren’t the only people who held on to their faith during a difficult time; Kayleigh did too, Hudson said.

“She was always so positive,” he said. “It was easy to help them.”

Being at the schools and active in the community gave Hudson a look at the situation from a different angle.

“I told Kayleigh’s parents on the day we gave them the check at the police department that they will never know how many people have come to know Christ because of their little girl until they get to Heaven,” he said. “Our community bonded in a way that it hasn’t in a long time. When you’ve got businesses putting stuff up and doing stuff like that, it’s amazing. It really did rally the whole community together.”

Hudson said even at high school ball games, students from rival schools wore purple, Kayleigh’s favorite color, or painted her name on them and took pictures with her.

“A group of teenage boys, coming to play their rivals, came together over a 7-year-old girl,” he said. “Everywhere we went, every community we went into or every community that came to us had something for that family. It did rally a ton of people together, which is an awesome and amazing thing.”

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