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A little more than a year ago, little James Smith faced a transplant surgery that cost more than $750,000, even with insurance.
Now, 5, the Laurence Manning Academy student has a new heart to deal with his restrictive cardiomyopathy, which he was diagnosed with at at 3.
James, the son of Dr. James “Jim” R. Smith and Holly Smith, was the recent winner of the Clarendon County Hometown Heroes Essay Contest, the first of three winners who will be chosen in 2017.
The contest was started by a local student in an effort to improve relations between law enforcement and the community. For his prize, Smith got to ride in a police car, received a trophy and was treated to breakfast at Shoney’s of Manning.
In reality, little James wasn’t the actual winner. The anonymous winner, however, donated his prizes to the little boy.
The winner’s essay was written about Clarendon County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Gene Morris, who has served for more than 31 years in law enforcement in various agencies, including the Manning Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office.
The student’s essay detailed how Morris selflessly gives back to different organizations, donating his time and effort with the expectation of nothing in return. The essay also highlighted his volunteer service as the Laurence Manning Academy cross-country coach. He has been the official coach for two years, and has aided the team overall for seven.
Morris has also volunteered his time as a speaker at the school’s career day, and he recently made an appearance as a Clarendon County Cover Girl to help raise money for Habitat for Humanity. He has been a member for seven years of Palmetto Patriots, a local bicycling group that rides in honor of and raises money for fallen officers and their families.
Morris retired as a first sergeant with the state Department of Natural Resources before returning to law enforcement as a field training officer for the Summerton Police Department. He began his role as chief deputy in January after Sheriff Tim Bailey was sworn-in.
Clarendon County Hometown Heroes will host a Community Day in June at J.C. Britton Park. The event will be open to the public and will consist of games, prizes, inflatables and more. The time and specific date will be announced at a later time.
In the meantime, the charity is gearing up for its second round of essays. The next deadline to submit is June 20, and submissions may be sent to P.O. Box 1272, Manning, SC 29102.
The only requirement for the essay is that it must describe something good about any law enforcement officer in Clarendon County, including from the Sheriff’s Office; the Manning, Turbeville or Summerton Police departments; the state Department of Natural Resources; the South Carolina Highway Patrol; the state’s Constable Service; or the state Department of Corrections.
• Be as specific as possible: List the officer’s name and his department. Try to include the date of the event you are writing about. If you are unsure of the name of a specific officer, listing the date and time or any other specifics will greatly help the Hometown Heroes selection committee in determining the specific officer.
• Essays may also be about something good an officer has done off-duty, such as coaching little league, teaching Sunday school, mowing your grass, or anything that you feel went above and beyond.
• Essays may also be about something that happened while the officer was working where you feel the officer did something great. Ideas may include helping you change a tire; walking a child home; checking on your safety; helping you during a car accident; putting in your car seat; teaching at career day; a great arrest; etc.
• Entries may be written as an essay or just a short email story; there is no minimum length required.
• You may be any age to enter.
• In order to win the ride to school in a police car, entrant must list child’s name, address, phone number, school and grade.
• Your writing and photo may appear on Manninglive.com or in The Manning Times
• Negative comments will not be read or considered. This is not the forum for negativity.
• One winner will be chosen and contacted by phone. A new winner will be chosen June 20, and the next Oct. 20. You may enter as many times as you want. To increase your chances of winning, enter at least one time during each cycle.