KISSIMMEE, Fla. - About two dozen local businesses will set up shop Wednesday evening in downtown Kissimmee to raise funds for the families of two slain police officers.
Residents are invited to shop at a "Back the Blue" market in the parking lot of Breeze, a bar at Broadway and East Dakin Avenue.
Event organizers said the market will serve as both a fundraiser and an opportunity for the community to begin healing. Wednesday's event is scheduled to last from 6 to 10 p.m. Click here for a list of vendors.
"We're strong. We're still here. We're going to still be here," said Diana Marrero-Pinto with Kissimmee Main Street.
Tom Lanier, who owns an antique mall in downtown Kissimmee, said he was heartbroken when he learned of the fatal shootings of Kissimmee police Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard.
"It made me actually sick to my stomach," Lanier said. "The police have been very protective of the downtown area. We really appreciate that."
Julio Rocha, another downtown business owner, said she hung a "Back the Blue" sign in her storefront to show her support of law enforcement officers.
Several businesses in Downtown Kissimmee have signs supporting police. At 5, what owners are doing, they say, will help the community heal pic.twitter.com/HBWa72p57h— Ty Russell (@TRussellWFTV) August 23, 2017
"Five children have lost (fathers)," she said. "I have two (children). It really (hit) home for me."
Rocha said a larger fundraising event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday on East Dakin Avenue, not far from the Kissimmee Police Department. The event will feature a barbecue, musical performances and remarks by local officials.
"We want to raise as much (money) as possible," she said. "But what we're really hoping for is unity."
Kissimmee police spokeswoman Stacie Miller said the community's show of support since the officers' deaths has been amazing.
"We've been just humbled and honored that our community has wrapped its arms around this department," Miller said. "It's our job now to take care of them because Matt and Sam can't. That's what we are going to do."
Baxter and Howard's funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Thursday at the First Baptist Church of Orlando. The First Baptist Church of Kissimmee will host a vigil at 8 p.m. Thursday. Attendants are asked to bring a blue candle.
4 Rivers Smokehouse, which is typically closed on Sundays, will open its Kissimmee location on Sunday for a fundraiser. All profits will be donated to the fallen officers' families.
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