Watson Day: Mississippi community raises $100k for toddler with cancer

Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A Saturday benefit to support a Natchez toddler’s fight with cancer raised an astonishing amount, organizers said.

TJ Bailey, the event organizer and cousin to three-year-old Watson Calhoun and his mother Melissa, said he counted approximately $97,000 raised and is still counting.

“We’re sure that total it’s over $100,000,” he said. “This might be the biggest benefit Natchez has ever had. And Melissa, she doesn’t have anything (financial) to worry about at least for a while. She can just focus her attention on Watson getting better.”

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Despite the pre-Easter cold snap setting in this weekend, around 40 to 50 motorcyclists and several families made their way bright and early to the Natchez bluff for a full day of activities to benefit Watson’s family amid his battle with cancer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

To warm things up, the smell of hot jambalaya attracted visitors to Smoots Grocery Blues Lounge where a lot of the activities and live music are held.

More bikers were expected had it not been for the weather, Bailey said. However, children and families enjoyed themselves in games of cornhole and laser tag and playing in bounce houses during live and silent auctions at Smoots.

Meanwhile, there were live broadcasts of a roping event in New Mexico and a poker tournament in Texas — all to help the young Watson Calhoun and his family. The amount raised is through a combination of all the activities in three states, Bailey said.

“The kids’ area did well,” he said. “All around, it was a great event. The community showed up and showed out. We couldn’t ask for a better crew who came out to support us. I truly feel like the reason we raised so much money is that the good Lord knew what it would take to get her through the hard times and that it is going to be a long fight. I feel like Watson will be cured.”

To kick things off, Mayor Dan Gibson issued an official proclamation declaring the day “Watson Calhoun Day.”

In January, Watson received emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor and was later diagnosed with medulloblastoma, cancer that forms on the brain stem at the top of his spinal cord. The cancer spread throughout his brain and along his spinal cord, top to bottom, said his mother, Melissa Calhoun.

The benefit will help the family with food, lodging and travel expenses while Watson undergoes aggressive chemo and radiation treatments in Memphis, Tennessee.

Donations can also be made to the family at Delta Bank to “Melissa Calhoun Special Account.” Contact 601-493-3740 for more information.