Community backs THS senior after grandfather’s death

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Students at Thompson High School and members of the Alabaster community came together to raise more than $12,000 for a student affected by a recent family tragedy.

On Dec. 6, Tommy Chester Pickett, grandfather of THS senior Josh Carden, was struck by a vehicle while crossing Fulton Springs Road in front of his residence.

After the wreck, Pickett, 73, was airlifted to the hospital, where he died the next day.

“Josh faces several challenges. He is in a wheelchair, and has to spend a lot of time in the bed,” said THS special education teacher Pat Hamrick. “But he is a very special young man. You won’t find anyone happier or more upbeat than Josh.”

Pickett was Carden’s primary caregiver, and was crossing the road to pick his grandson up at a school bus stop when he was struck by the vehicle, Hamrick said.

“Josh has been through so much, and for this to happen right here at Christmas is just terrible,” Hamrick said. “He lost his primary caregiver.”

After the accident, Hamrick asked the THS faculty to donate money to help purchase a television for Carden for Christmas. After hearing of Hamrick’s request, THS Assistant Principal Jeff Atkins challenged the school’s students to raise $1,000 to donate to the family.

“Jeff told the students he would let the Rowdy Boyz, which is one of our spirit clubs, shave his beard during one of the school’s basketball games,” Hamrick said. “And then that sparked other students to come forward and say they would cut their hair if the school raised $2,000.

“The whole student body has really stepped up to help this family. It’s been amazing,” Hamrick added.

In four days, the school and members of the community were able to raise more than $12,000 to donate to the family, smashing the school’s fundraising goals.

“We are just trying to do what we can for the family right now. We want to make sure they still have a good Christmas despite the fact that they lost a loved one,” Hamrick said. “With the help of Best Buy, we were able to buy Josh a 42-inch TV with a surround sound system.

“It’s amazing that the school was able to raise that much money in such a short amount of time,” Hamrick added, noting Alabaster residents, businesses and churches also donated to the cause.

The money raised will be used to help the family with its short- and long-term needs said THS chemistry teacher Michelle Holdbrooks.

“This family definitely has immediate needs and long-term needs. (Pickett) was the family’s primary caregiver,” Holdbrooks said. “It’s a sad situation, but it’s evident that it touched a lot of people’s hearts, based on the amount of donations.”

Carden and his grandmother, Louise, said they were touched by the generosity of their neighbors.

“They have just done wonderful,” Louise Pickett said.

“It was a terrible thing that happened. We need all the prayer we can get right now,” Carden said. “But (the school’s fundraising efforts) made me very happy.”

To donate to the school’s fundraiser, call the THS office at 682-5700.