LAUREL HILL Katlyn "Katie" Free, a 2009 Laurel Hill School graduate, was a fierce competitor in basketball, softball and volleyball.

LAUREL HILL Katlyn "Katie" Free, a 2009 Laurel Hill School graduate, was a fierce competitor in basketball, softball and volleyball.

Free will need that competitive spirit as she faces her greatest challenge, awaiting a heart transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

The Laurel Hill community is rallying around Katie and her family, offering emotional and financial support.

First Baptist Church of Laurel Hill and Laurel Hill School athletic department members will have a Boston butt sale from 3-6 p.m. Feb. 21 to raise funds for Katie. Orders are being taken for the $20 3- to 4-pound butts, which Jeff Jones will cook.

Keep reading to learn how to help>>

Laurel Hill baseball and junior varsity basketball coach Ronnie Smith, who coached girls basketball when Free was part of the program, said helping her and her family is fitting.

"We went to Ole Miss (for a basketball camp) when she was an eighth-grader and her daddy (Keith Free) got out and helped me raise money. Now it's my turn to turn around and give back to a family that has been so good to Laurel Hill."

The Rev. Mike McVay, pastor of First Baptist Church said, "Katlyn is one of ours at Laurel Hill School and the church as well. She is having a life change. This procedure is going to change her life completely."

Katie recently had open heart surgery to install a heart pump as she awaits a new heart, McVay said. Katie and her family will need to stay in Jacksonville for at least three months while they wait for her transplant.

And every bit of financial support helps, which is why, Smith said, he'll even deliver the Boston butts to Crestview if someone can't make it to Laurel Hill.

"If I need to deliver a Boston butt to Crestview, or even a truckload of Boston butts to Crestview, call me and I'll bring them to you after they are cooked," he said. "We will cook them on the honor system if someone orders one. They are so good I'll sell them."

Other fundraisers, including a March 8 yard sale and late-spring Gospel sing at the church, are in the works.

If Boston butts, yard sales and gospel sings aren't your thing, you can make a donation through the church, McVay said.

Just make sure you designate the donation for the Katlyn Free Fund.


What: Katlyn Free fundraiser, Boston butt sale

When: 3-6 p.m. Feb. 21, across from Laurel Hill School, 8078 4th St., Laurel Hill

Cost: $20

Contact: Ronnie Smith, 652-4111 or 585-3503, or the Rev. Mike McVay, 519-0120

Email News Bulletin Sports Editor Randy Dickson, follow him on Twitter or call 850-682-6524.