Mauled boy gets support (and new bike) from deputies, Harlem business
HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Burke County Sheriff’s Office deputies are giving their best wishes to dog-mauling victim Justin Gilstrap, who’s continuing to draw support from across the CSRA and around the world.
Meanwhile, 11-year-old Justin is due for more surgeries, and a local business is raising money to help him and his family.
Deputies went to the Children’s Hospital of Georgia on Wednesday to say hi and bring him some goodies, including a new bike.
Justin was riding his bike along Langston Drive in Columbia County when three dogs mauled him on Jan. 6. The pit bulls have since been euthanized, as were other dogs with the same owner, who was sued earlier this week by Justin’s family.
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When Burke County deputies dropped by the hospital, Justin couldn’t see them in person, but his mother FaceTimed him so deputies could talk to him.
They let Justin know that Sheriff Alfonzo Williams made him an honorary deputy of Burke County and they brought him a badge.
“Justin we stand behind you and want you to know just how strong you are,” deputies said in a Facebook post. “You got this! Please come and see us when you are all better we would love to see you!”
Justin will be in the Augusta hospital for a while, and has other surgeries ahead of him, possibly in Atlanta.
Despite the obstacles ahead of him, Justin has shown resiliency and optimism that has inspired many and prompted an outpouring of support.
Among the supporters is the owner of Main Street Treats at 170 N. Louisville St. in Harlem.
The business is expecting a big crowd in support of Justin during an event from 3:30-8:30 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from sales will go to Justin and his family.
The business owner, Raven Truitt, has a connection to Justin by being a teacher at Euchee Creek, where Justin goes to school.
“We’re a small town and we back our people. There’s a lot of kids just from our school here right now so it’s really overwhelming,” said Truitt.
Raising money led hundreds to Main Street.
“Everyone wants to give back and do what they can do to help. This is something that our family thought that we could do to help maybe in just a little way,” she said. “With people knowing Justin or sharing stories about how they know him. Just seeing people coming from Evans and Augusta just to show their support because they can.”
Even though this event is close to a month after the attack, she says it shows the support isn’t dying down.
“Just to see how far he’s come... it’s really just praise that people have rallied around, and they continue to support him through his entire journey,” said Truitt.
Truitt says a goal is bringing people to one place to talk about Justin.
Matthew McDonald is a community supporter. He said, “It’s kind of small-town USA out here. We still show up for each other out here, and we wanted to show it for Justin and his family. Harlem’s a community. It’s a small community, but they’ve demonstrated time and time again, they’re going to show up for one another.”
Kelly Tam is another teacher from his school. She said, “He’s one of those kids that everybody knows and remembers and loves and connects with. He’s easy to talk to. He’s friendly. We just love him so much.”
Hundreds showed up for Justin. From teachers ...
“We’re here because we love Justin,” said Tam.
To bus drivers …
“Justin rides my bus in the morning time. Bus number 152,” said Judy Taylor.
To strangers ...
McDonald said: “He’s a part of our community. I don’t know Justin. I don’t know his family. My kids don’t know him directly. But we are part of the same community.”
One community coming together for one tough kid.
“Justin is one of those kids that’s really tough and resilient,” said Tam. “Anytime he meets a struggle, he is going to continue working until he overcomes it.”
Overcoming and living up to #JustinTough.
Cameron Vincent said: “Justin’s, like, tough. I’ve even seen him on the football field. He’s tough, man. Real tough.”
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