Hundreds of families and friends gathered today at the courthouse in downtown Valdosta to remember James Eunice and to celebrate what would have been his 18th birthday. Eunice drowned in January while duck hunting on a Lowndes County pond.
"It's extremely emotional for me. I'm trying to hold myself together. James was like my little brother, so today means the world to me," said Emily Parker who was a friend of Eunice.
But today was a celebration, not only for James' birthday, but because his parents Tammy and John raised money to donate new scuba equipment for the officers of Lowndes County. They even raised enough money to buy a new boat.
All of this is needed so search teams can be ready if another accident happens. Sheriff Chris Prine says this is a great day for the Lowndes County Sheriff Office.
"This donation to us gives us the ability, regionally wide, to assist other counties and other states that have to face the same ordeal that we had to face," said Prine.
Local businesses donated a check of almost $149,000, all in the memory of James Eunice.
Along with new scuba gear and a boat, the Lowndes County Sheriff Department received a new state of the art sonar technology so another person won't suffer the same fate as James.
Tammy Eunice is grateful to donate the equipment to the city but is saddened it had to come after the loss of her son.
"To me, it would come full circle, the first time someone is saved because of this equipment. I believe we're keeping James name and legacy alive through this and James would be so proud that his name is being used in such a positive way," said Eunice.
She knows all the money and equipment in the world can't bring back her son, but she said all of the efforts will be worth if these new gifts save at least one life.