Fundraiser to send Rouse family on trip during first anniversary

Dougherty Co. Police Officer Lt. Cliff Rouse was killed on duty on Dec. 23, 2010

Aubrey Halstead knew Lt. Cliff Rouse from school years through wartime.

"We went from football in second grade to the U.S. Army together," says Halstead.

Now he's organizing a fundraiser to help send the Rouse family â" wife, two children and grandparents â" to Disney in Orlando, Florida, during the week of Dec. 23: The one year anniversary of Rouse's death.

"It gives them an opportunity to take that off their mind for a minute," says Halstead. "There's a lot to be digested mentally that week."

Halstead says he understands the struggle of that one year mark because he too experienced what the Rouse family is going through now.

"My dad was a policeman; he died when I was 12. Clifford's son is 12 which was about the age I was, so it kind of hits close to home, and I know that first anniversary date is coming up and I know what it's going to be for them," says Halstead.

He says Disney World is a trip Rouse wanted to take his family on but never had the chance.

Halstead is reaching out to the community to help fund the approximately $10,000 trip for the Rouse family.

"I thought the spirit of this would be better if we did it as a community: Everybody kind of come together and make it a gift from everybody. When he was on patrol he wasn't just protecting one or two people, he was out for everybody," he says.

Given the work law enforcement does with Lily Pad, Halstead also reached out to the non-profit for their support.

"They approached us about this and asked if we would help them raise some money and keep the funds through lily pad, so all donations can be made to Lily Pad in his memory," says Caitlyn Cooper with Lily Pad. "We're going to be able to send them for four or five nights. They're going to get to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where they can look out the window and see animals, and then they'll have a few days to walk around Disney World and Epcot."

To assist with Rouse's special needs daughter, Halstead wants to send both sets of grandparents.

Halstead says before going full-steam-ahead with the trip plans, he approached Rouse's wife, who Halstead says was ecstatic about the idea.

If you would like to make a donation for the Rouse family's trip, you can contact the Lily Pad at (229) 435-0074 or mail them your contribution to The Lily Pad, P.O. Box 467, Albany Ga. 31702.

For more information, visit the Cliff Rouse Memorial Facebook page.