Tens of thousands of dollars were raised from people all over the country to help the family of a fallen officer.
The family of Grand Prairie Police Officer AJ Castaneda was presented with a $40,000 check on Wednesday. That money was raised in part by a t-shirt drive organized by the wife of a North Texas police chief.
Officer Casteneda’s father, brother and niece all showed up to the presentation. They were joined by Grand Prairie police and officers from Fort Worth, Mansfield and Burleson. All of them were there to celebrate the support given to Officer Castaneda’s family since his death.
AJ Castaneda is remembered as a man who put his neighbors and family first. Six weeks after he died in a crash on the Bush Turnpike, the community is showing his loved ones how much he was appreciated.
Daniel Castaneda, AJ’s brother, accepted a check for $40,000. It was raised from selling $10 t-shirts. The money is heading to the Elisha Castaneda Trust Fund for the officer’s 11-year-old son.
Elisha is autistic and needs specialized therapy. Daniel says it isn’t fully covered by insurance.
“All that stuff adds up,” Daniel said. “So to make sure Elisha can have a normal life when he gets older, he needs to have those classes.”
Sherri Aaron with Back the Blue HQ says her team made and sold thousands of t-shirts honoring Officer Castaneda both online and through various fundraising events.
“They’re never going to forget him because these shirts are gonna be out there for years,” Aaron said. “People are going to be wearing them in the grocery store and the workout place.”
Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye says he’ll always remember Officer Castaneda for his commitment to building the trust of those he served.
“If you looked up the model police officer in a dictionary, you would see AJ’s picture,” he said.
AJ’s 4-year-old niece, Caydence, wore her Grand Prairie badge sticker and black and blue bracelet. It’s the little reminders that her uncle isn’t forgotten.
The reception to the shirts has been so positive that Back the Blue HQ is working on one more fundraising event for next month.