IMG 2018It has been five years since Deputy Suzanne Waughtel-Hopper’s passing, and while her friends and former colleagues say it is normal for people to think of the way she died, they insist that her life and her manner of living were much more compelling. Perhaps that is why so many people packed Tecumseh High School on Friday night as they came out in support of her memorial volleyball game—so that they could continue a tradition that Hopper herself helped create—and maybe feel a little closer to her in turn.

Hopper was part of the team that started a benefit volleyball tournament to raise money for Clark County Special Olympics—an organization dear to her heart, as her daughter Emily has special needs. Her friend and comrade Wendy Donovan said it was nine years ago that Hopper started the annual volleyball tournament, which now continues in the fallen deputy’s name.

Donovan, along with Misty Adams and Jen Wade, organize the benefit each year in memory of their friend, gathering an outpouring of volunteers and donations that all go directly to Special Olympics of Clark County, which Donovan said is significant because all of the proceeds stay local. Donovan said the families of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office are instrumental in orchestrating the event each year, as several deputies’ mothers volunteered to run the raffle, while three teams of deputies and personnel from the department competed in the tournament.

A total of 14 teams vied for the top spot Friday night, including representatives from the Enon/Mad River Township Fire Department, Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, Springfield Police Department, TAC Industries, and Speedway. Hopper’s son Charlie also entered with his team, called Charlie’s Angels.

Donovan said she hoped that proceeds this year would continue to grow as they have each year since the tournament was founded, saying: “It keeps getting bigger and better.”

She said that the annual tourneys have raised more than $10,000 for Special Olympics of Clark County, not including the take from last weekend’s game. Last year, the money raised in Hopper’s memory allowed 65 athletes and 25 coaches to travel to the Special Olympics’ Summer Games. This year, Donovan said the goal is to raise enough to purchase brand new uniforms and equipment for all of the players.

Before Friday night’s game began, Hopper’s son Emily threw out the first ball, as she does every year. A moment of silence was held in honor of her mother before the players got down to business—entering into some friendly, yet intense, competition between departments.

Donovan expressed her gratitude to everyone who donated time, items, and money for the game, saying that nothing had to be purchased out of pocket. She thanked Joe Catanzaro of Catanzaro’s Pizza for donating all of the pizza, as well as the F.O.P. Lodge 209 for donating supplies for the concessions stand, which was run by volunteers from Boy Scout Troop 909 out of Springfield.

“When people think of Suzanne, they tend to remember her death, they think about Enon Beach,” said Donovan. “We want them to think about her life—and this game is a perfect example of that,” she said.

“It’s about Suzanne—it’s about Emily, and her mom. This is a cause that she cared very deeply about.”

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