By TESA GLASS
BLUFORD — Friends are rallying around the family of Derek Houle, who, along with his 9-year-old son, died in a car crash on March 1.
"We know they are going through so much right now," said Bambi McKinney.
A benefit dinner for the Houle family will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. March 16 at Bluford Grade School in the old gym. The event, sponsored by the Bluford Ruritan Club, is slated to help pay for funeral expenses and medical bills.
McKinney said she and her husband, Trent, are friends with Derek Houle's mother and stepfather, Carla and Rusty Bryant.
"Derrick, his stepdad, just lost his mom two weeks ago," McKinney said. "Then this, and then last night, Derrick lost his aunt. There is so much going on, we want to do what we can to help the family cope and know they are cared for."
Derek Houle and his son, Journey, died as a result of an accident Friday night on Interstate 64 near the 52 mile marker. According to police, Houle and his son and 12-year-old daughter, Destini, were in an SUV when Houle slid on black ice in the westbound lanes, causing the vehicle to veer into the median, getting stuck in the mud. The three were standing in the median when another vehicle slid on the ice and hit all three Houles.
Destini Houle was taken to a St. Louis hospital for treatment of her injuries. McKinney said she has learned the girl has been released from the hospital and is now recovering from home.
The benefit will include a smoked pork chop dinner by Steve Earhart, which will also include green beans, potatoes, pasta salad and dessert. Desserts are being provided by area churches, McKinney said. Residents are collecting donations for an auction, which will be conducted by Don Rector and Bob Dagg.
"Everyone is pitching in, volunteering their time," McKinney said. "A lot of people want to help them and do what they can."