City Council honor cheers Special Olympian on sad day - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

City Council honor cheers Special Olympian on sad day

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Source: Leigh Cheatham Source: Leigh Cheatham
Source: Leigh Cheatham Source: Leigh Cheatham

A Midlands Special Olympics athlete ended an emotionally difficult day with a smile Tuesday night.

24-year-old Travis Luthren is representing South Carolina at the 2014 USA Games in Princeton, NJ in June.  He's been involved with Special Olympics since he was 8 years old.

Tuesday morning, Special Olympics kicked off its annual Law Enforcement Torch Run without Richland County Sheriff's Department Captain Joe Pellicci, who was involved with the Special Olympics throughout his career. Pellicci died of cancer last month.  Luthren and Pellicci were good friends, and not having Pellicci there Tuesday morning saddened him.

But Tuesday night, Columbia City Council members recognized Lutheren for his accomplishments with the Special Olympics, for whom he now works part-time as a program associate. The honor came as a surprise.

"He was down in the dumps and I was so excited to see his face light up last night during the meeting," said Leigh Cheatham, who works with Luthren at Special Olympics of South Carolina. "He was so surprised and he almost started crying."

"When we got back in the car and I said, 'See, Joey wants you to be happy and smile and live life,'" she said. "He grinned from ear to ear all night long!"

Luthren has competed in swimming, bowling, golf, bocce and recently learned how to paddleboard.  He's one of 160 athletes and coaches from Team South Carolina attending the 2014 USA Games in June.

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