As East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's Deputy Nick Tullier continues the painstaking process of recovery after sustaining critical injuries during a 2016 ambush, local and state officials spoke Tuesday at a fundraiser for Tullier and his family, expressing their faith in the power of prayer. 

Some 500 people attended the event at the Baton Rouge Marriott Hotel. Organizers said they hoped to raise at least $125,000 toward costs associated with Tullier's ongoing medical treatment.

In Houston hospital, wounded deputy Nick Tullier's family gathers to celebrate recovery's daily battles

"He was out there doing what he loved to do — protecting us," said Gov. John Bel Edwards. "So it's only right that we come together and show our support for him and his family tonight. … It is the power of prayer that has things where they are today, and I am so impressed with that family and (Tullier’s) remarkable strength."

The day of the ambush "was the single hardest day of the two years that I've been governor," Edwards said. "But I don't even pretend to know how hard it was for the families (involved). I can only imagine that."

He also acknowledged that Tuesday was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day and thanked the hundreds of law enforcement officers present for the fundraiser Tuesday.

Tullier was critically injured July 17, 2016, when a lone gunman shot six law enforcement officers, killing three of them outside an Airline Highway convenience store. The ambush occurred 12 days after the fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling that sparked protests and exacerbated tensions between Baton Rouge law enforcement officers and residents.

Doctors initially feared Tullier wouldn't survive his injuries, which included multiple gunshot wounds to his stomach, head and shoulder. He spent much of the past year struggling to recover at a Houston rehabilitation facility and has recently moved into an apartment with his fiancee, also in Houston.

Deputy Nick Tullier making rapid progress, now 'fully conscious,' Houston doctors say

The fundraiser Tuesday was called "Nashville to the Rescue: Just in the Nick of Time" and featured country music, dinner and a silent auction.

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome was one of the speakers at the event, saying she firmly believes "prayer moves the hand that moves the world" and asked that the community continue praying for Tullier and his family.

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux expressed optimism for Tullier's recovery.

"Nick Tullier is by the grace of God still alive," Gautreaux said. "That young man has a heart of a lion. He is fighting a battle that no one should have to fight, but he's going to make it because of his fortitude and because of things just like what you're doing here today."

Follow Lea Skene on Twitter, @lea_skene.