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200 Club holds annual run in Pooler so mission continues during COVID

Savannah Morning News logo Savannah Morning News 6/3/2021 Bunny Ware

In a new location for their 1 mile run to support the families of fallen first responders, The 200 Club of the Coastal Empire held the Pooler Run for Heroes on Rogers Street in Pooler on May 29.

Arriving at the West Chatham Middle School, I cruise past helicopters, SWAT vans and every police vehicle ever created to find the two of the funniest dudes from Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, Capt. Gary Murphy and Cpl. Mitchell “Mouse” Minick. Both dudes stand well above 6 feet, have a wicked sense of humor and undying love of culinary creations.

 “Eating hamburgers since ’66” and taking pics of every one of his meals, Mouse assures me that he is still single, Gary has a fabulous “Joy” in his life and both guys are eager to give me a rundown on the 35 first responder agencies lined up on the lawn of the West Chatham Middle School.

Walking over to meet Savannah Police Department SWAT Officer Joseph Eblin and Cpl. Bryan Holler, I met “just finished SWAT school yesterday” Officer Michael Villanueva. The 23-year-old Puerto Rico native is telling me how amped he is to have completed the intense school when I see a real life EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) robot being backed down a narrow metal ramp beside me.

a group of people standing in the grass: Georgia Department of Public Safety Pipe and Drum Band Piper Scott Gunn, Piper James Rutland, Sgt. Fred Hall, Sgt. Jay Trawick, Pipe Major Dan Bray © Bunny Ware / For Savannah Morning News Georgia Department of Public Safety Pipe and Drum Band Piper Scott Gunn, Piper James Rutland, Sgt. Fred Hall, Sgt. Jay Trawick, Pipe Major Dan Bray

Meet Cpl. Anthony Noto, an FBI certified bomb technician. Patiently pointing out tips on running a robot to his 12.5-year-old son Evan, we wait for the Andros F-6 to land on the grass, then pose them with Sgt. Richard Moore and Asst. Bomb Squad Commander S.Cpl. Joseph Bejnarowicz.

Next up, Savannah Police Department’s K-9 Officer Jon Lindsey, judge advocate, tells me, “Jas is 100% work. No play, no cuddling and petting — this K-9 is all search drugs, tracking and bite work.” With a mini posing session with this fierce canine and the former Ranger Battalion dog handler, I head over to talk with two preachers who just happen to be veteran police officers.

Proud to see Statesboro Police Department Police Capt. Carl Ramey looking uber healthy after a prostate cancer scare, I met his “fellow servant leader” Georgia Southern University Officer Lamar Stephens, then watch the two shake hands with and bless everyone walking by!

The next group of guys are a true musical blessing! I have the Georgia State Patrol Trooper Pipes and Drum guys vying for the best personality, most talkative and craziest stories. While posing Piper Scott Gunn, Piper James Rutland, Sgt. Fred Hall, Sgt. Jay Trawick and Pipe Maj. Dan Bray, I can’t decide who wins because everyone in this gregarious group is wicked cool.

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After making sure to let the guys know I drive a bit frisky, I head over to catch up with two of my favorite Chatham County Police Department guys, Sgt. Matthew Lopresti and Lt. Mark Galipeau. Giggling at the rolling commentary coming out of Mark’s mouth, I think back on the years of watching these guys climb the ranks and am so proud to see them both thriving.

Walking up to us is super skinny Lt. Yujeen Foster. If I could only repeat the kind words of greeting between these long-time friends as I shake my head and request a pic. Hating to leave these guys I check the time and realize the race is starting a mile away at Pooler Parks and Recreation.

I glance over and see one of my fav’s from CCSO, Gretchen Derryberry. Always on my mind when I see honey from all over the country when I travel, I ask the honeybee queen how her six hives are while posing her with April Jackson and Jennifer Messer.

Wait, is that CCSO Chief Deputy Billy Freeman watching quietly from the side of the tent?! Throwing my camera down, I rush over to hug this proud granddad and ask how the love of his life is doing. I’m not sure if it’s his wife Debbie or his grandson but he lights up when talking about them both.

Next up is flurry of pics of faces like long-time friend Thomas “The Fireman” Leighty who just happens to be a Savannah Fire Department battalion chief along with one of his bosses, Assistant Chief Elzie Kitchen, Pooler Police Department Sgt. Tripp Davis and a whole team of Fleet Feet runners gathering around the fabulous Sherry Feathers.

Following the smell of smoke, I sneak up on my all-time favorite CCSO guys, Maj. Terry Boyles manning the massive smokers. Undoubtedly one of the best men to walk the Earth, Terry along with his usual team, Brandon Tippett, Aaron Price, Jamie Herold, Bobby Irvin and Mark Stanfield, are cooking hundreds of hamburgers and hotdogs for today’s supporters.

a person posing for the camera: Bunny Ware © Richard Burkhart, Savannah Morning News Bunny Ware

Catching up with 200 Club President Mark Dana, he proudly said: “Today happened because Pooler Police Chief Ashley Brown called and offered. Along with Pooler Mayor Rebecca Benton, Pooler City Council, the Savannah Chatham County Public School System Chief of Police Terry Enoch and especially Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher and his benevolent team, close to 500 runners showed up to support our families of fallen first responders.” 

Since 2001 this true nonprofit of 500 members in 20 counties has raised over $3.5 million for families of first responders who have died in the line of duty. With money raised from today’s signature event, the 200 Club continues to transcend religion, race and social or economic issues by helping families through immediate financial relief and a fully paid college education. We salute these families and the organization that supports the people they serve and protect us.

For more on the 200 Club, go online to: twohundredclub.org

Invite Bunny to your gathering, gala or other social event. Contact Bunny at 912-844-1122 or email her at bunnyware@aol.com. See more columns by Bunny at SavannahNow.com/Lifestyle/. 

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: 200 Club holds annual run in Pooler so mission continues during COVID

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