C.O.P.S. walk expected to raise $180,000

October 10, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. -- Brenda Donner flew in from Seattle for the 25-mile hike. It was her first time.

She did it in honor of her father, Clifton Miller, a city police officer in a small Ohio town. Miller, 30 at the time, was killed in the line of duty on May 14, 1966, during a high-speed pursuit.

Donner was 8 years old at the time, the oldest of five children. Her mother was pregnant with her sixth child when her husband was killed.

"She raised us on Social Security and dad's police pension," Donner said. "Mom felt like she was on an island. She could have benefited from C.O.P.S."


C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors) is a national nonprofit created in 1984 to support the families of police officers killed in the line of duty. According to its Web site, a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty every 2 1/2 days.

C.O.P.S., which is headquartered in Camdenton, Mo., has 50 chapters across the country, said Caroline Davinroy, director of development.

Davinroy is in Shepherdstown this weekend, shepherding 95 family members of slain officers from around the country participating in the fifth annual C.O.P.S. Walk. It's a two-day, 25-mile jaunt up and down the C&O Canal, from Point of Rocks, Md., to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., on Saturday and from Shepherdstown to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., today.

Walkers raise money from pledges from supporters. Davinroy estimated the weekend event will bring in about $180,000 to fund the organization's programs.

The group runs a children's camp in Wisconsin and adult retreats, and provides logistical and moral support and counseling to survivors as well as affected co-workers of cops who are killed.

It often is devastating to the surviving partner of an officer killed in the line of duty, Davinroy said.

"It can put them in a deep depression," she said. "We support survivors two ways -- through counseling by mental health professionals and through strong peer support."

Donner said she met other survivors at Saturday's walk, all of whom willingly shared their stories.

In her case, even though her father died 43 years ago, C.O.P.S. helped her work through some lingering issues.

"You start to forget about them, which is a natural progression, then you start to feel guilty about it. Then, you learn not to beat yourself up," she said. "Mom said she had to put dad in a box and out of her mind in order to raise us kids. C.O.P.S. would have been a big help if it had been around then."

Donner married a police officer, now retired, 21 years ago. It isn't easy being married to a cop, she said.

"You can't help but think of him being killed," she said.

Jennifer Thacker of Louisville, Ky., is president of C.O.P.S., which serves 15,000 families. Her husband, Brandon Thacker, was killed on the job in 1998 when he was 27 years old.

"We had a year-old daughter," she said.

She remarried six years ago, but not to a police officer.

Closer to home, Tracey Wroten of Inwood, W.Va., and her four daughters, Katherine, 14, Kelsie, 12, Chloe, 11, and Kaylee, 9, went on the walk for the first time.

Jeffery A. Wroten, Tracey's ex-husband and the girls' father, was a correctional officer at Roxbury Correctional Institution in January 2006 when was shot to death by Brandon T. Morris, an inmate he was guarding at Washington County Hospital.

She and her husband had divorced months earlier, Tracey Wroten said.

"That didn't make any difference after he was killed," she said.

Of the walk, she said, "You meet and make lifetime friends. We've all be through the same thing." Sharing that kind of kindredship "helps you get back to normal."

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