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Walnut Grove softball hosts First Responders Night
The Walnut Grove High School softball team helped raise $1,600 for wounded Covington Police Officer Matt Cooper Tuesday night during the Lady Warriors inaugural First Responders Night. - photo by Brett Fowler

LOGANVILLE, Ga. - The story of Matt Cooper’s injury has gone far beyond the city limits of Covington. Over the past two weeks, people have seen not just the Covington community come together, but many communities around the state and even the country rally to help support the wounded officer as he recovers.

Walnut Grove’s softball program is just the latest group to lend a helping hand in Cooper’s recovery.

Tuesday night, on the 17th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that rocked our nation, the Lady Warriors hosted their inaugural First Responders Night to honor the men and women who are first on the scene during emergency situations. But it didn’t stop there, Walnut Grove used the proceeds of a 50/50 raffle and t-shirt sales to help raise $1,600 for Cooper and his family.

“Its been amazing the outpouring of support and love for coop and his family during this whole ordeal,” Covington Police Department Lt. Al Miller said. “We’ve been very thankful for the support we’ve seen people give to him and his family.”

Miller was on hand for Tuesday’s event as a representative for the Cooper family and was presented with a check after the game totaling $1,600, $1,000 of which came from the 50/50 raffle and the other $600 coming via t-shirt sales of a special shirt the Walnut Grove booster club had designed for the event.

“We’ve got a lot of parents that are first responders and it’s one of those things we felt like we needed to do,” Walnut Grove head coach Steven Foster said of the event. “It worked out well. I think 9/11 was the perfect day with the significance of what went on in our county that day. But then being able to raise over a thousand dollars for officer Cooper was great.

“When that incident happened a little over a week ago we thought ‘what can we do to help?’ and we already had some shirts designed for the first responders event so any money we made off of that we decided was going to go back to officer Cooper. I think out girls understand the significance of this event and they wanted it to be something special.

The game itself was uneventful at best. The Lady Warriors hosted Region 8-AAAAA bottom feeder Clarke Central and mercifully ended the contest 15-0 in just three innings. However, it was the fervor outside of the lines that made Tuesday such a special event. Members of Walton County Fire and Rescue, Georgia State Patrol, the Walton County Sherrif’s Office, Covington Police, Covington Fire and Air Methods air medical transport were all on hand for the event with Walnut Grove High School resource officer James Stephens of the WCSO throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

Cooper continues to improve after being shot in the head last week while tracking down a shoplifting suspect fleeing Walmart in Covington. The 34-year old is a six-year veteran of the Covington Police Department who served in the U.S. Army. He is married with two children.

“I think its nothing short of a miracle,” Miller said. “From where we were the other day to where we are now it just miraculous. I’m no doctor, but just the reports we’ve gotten from the doctors and knowing what happened we’re all very happy to know where he is from where we started to where we are now.”

Doctors at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta placed Cooper on a respirator for a few days, then allowed him to go without it. Cooper is now back on the respirator as a precaution.

He is now responding to questions via hand motion and has waved to his nurse.

“Matt is continuing to fight and his progress, though slow, is impressive,” CPD said Wednesday morning in a Facebook post. “Officer Cooper still has a very long way to go so please continue your positive thoughts and prayers. Matt’s condition remains serious. Please continue praying for the Cooper family.”