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Men set example by giving away reward

Editorial Board • Sep 7, 2016 at 1:21 PM

Hawkins County doesn’t have a community medal of honor, but four county residents show why it should create one. Roger Carpenter, Larry Hamblen, Donnie Lawson and Stuart Franklin set examples that we can but strive to match.

When Carlie Marie Trent went missing, they joined hundreds of others searching for her. And they credit God for finding her.

Carpenter and Franklin had both thought of looking in the same location off Gravely Valley Road the night before, and they took that as a sign. That’s why they decided to search there on May 12.

The foursome had split up into pairs that day, and Franklin and Lawson were searching property in a remote area of Hawkins County near the Hancock County line off Gravely Valley Road when they came upon Carlie and the man who had taken her from school. “We depended on the Lord,” Carpenter said. “That’s what we asked for ... and it worked. I hope somebody out there gets that from this. Praying to the good Lord worked.”

The thought of keeping $40,000 in reward money never occurred to them. Their issue was who to give it to. “We thank each and every one who gave money, and we wanted to put it to the best use we possibly could,“ said Carpenter. ”Speaking for all four of us, this was never about money. Money never had the first thing in the world to do with this. ... We feel very blessed to have been part of this.”

The idea of splitting the money among 26 charities was “just a compilation of everybody trying to put our heads together and do the right thing,” Carpenter added.

At a ceremony at the Of One Accord ministry’s Shepherd’s Center in Rogersville, the recipients were announced. Of One Accord Director Sheldon Livesay thanked all those who searched for Carlie, those who offered reward money, law enforcement and rescue personnel who searched tirelessly for a week and everyone who offered their prayers for the girl’s safe return.

Livesay said Carlie’s rescue was all they asked for. The charitable contributions were just “the icing on the cake. We know it could have turned out differently,” Livesay said. “But there is more good news today. It would have been enough if the story ended there. That is a truly happy ending.”

Livesay added, “The men who found Carlie refused the reward money. They wanted it to be directed in some way to help organizations and charities in Hawkins County and Hancock County. Today we are placing checks in the hands of local organizations to continue doing good deeds for residents in the community where Carlie lives.”

Knoxville musician and songwriter Trey Healy, who contributed $5,000 to the reward fund, said he couldn’t have asked for a better use of the reward money. He uses money raised through his music career to advocate for children’s safety issues

“To be blessed enough to be able to donate anything at all is amazing,” Healy said. “But to be able to see where the money goes at this point is unbelievable. The kind gestures of these gentlemen who were really out there working hard to find Carlie — for them to go above and beyond at this point in time when they don’t have to — again, some people say I didn’t have to donate. But to be given that money for a job that they did, and then to give it away, just shows a level of selflessness no one can understand or explain.”

Well done, gentlemen.

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