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A special place in the heart

The Easley Progress - 2/12/2019

Feb. 11--PICKENS COUNTY -- On Jan. 22, officers from different law enforcement agencies around the state gathered at the State House for a photo op, which kicked off the 2019 S.C. Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics--an event that happens nationwide to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics.

Representing the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in the run were Cpt. Karen Swink, Sgt. Raquel Salter and 1st Sgt. Earl Pope.

Swink said, for her, this is another way to spread positivity.

"Being involved with Special Olympics is just one small way I choose to give back to the community. It allows law enforcement to be seen through different eyes and provides an avenue to connect with those we serve--all for a great cause," said Swink.

As for Pope, the support shown for the Special Olympics community doesn't stop at the finish line, it follows him home. His son, 9-year-old Cooper, was diagnosed with general idiopathic epilepsy at only 4-years-old. Like many families with children with special needs, there was no book on what to do.

The family went to many different hospitals before finally finding the right medication, allowing Cooper to be seizure-free for four and a half years -- a blessing for the Pope family.

"To watch your kid have a seizure is just something you can't explain," Pope said with tears in his eyes. "As soon as we got him to Emory hospital and got him on some new medication, his seizures stopped."

Though that fear the seizures will come back at any moment is always there, it's often hidden by joy when Cooper reaches -- what his family calls -- "victories." Along with the seizures, Cooper also pushes through his learning disability.

Cooper has participated in Special Olympics at the local level for two years in Jasper County, fueling the fire for his dad as he runs to raise money.

"To watch the excitement on those kids' faces whenever they get to go participate in events, some running events and some different things, it makes it all worthwhile," said Pope. "And the reason you go out and try to raise money for Special Olympics is to let those kids shine for a few days."

Keeping their smiles just as bright as the torch officers run with.

All the money raised will directly go to more than 28,000 of South Carolina's bravest athletes, like Cooper. Last year, Torch Run officers in South Carolina raised $1,055,160 for the Special Olympics.


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