The heat pounded almost as hard as the hammers Monday as a group from Salkehatchie Summer Service began repair work on the home of an ailing Richland County sheriff’s deputy.
The group of 13 from the Methodist summer camp this week is replacing the roof and wood trim, building an outdoor drainage system and painting for Deputy Mark Ryan, who has stage 4 lung cancer.
Ryan, a four-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, was diagnosed in early 2011 with lung cancer. It was a shock, especially to a younger man who does not drink or smoke and had no family history of cancer. He is a single father of three girls. The youngest is set to begin her freshman year of high school, and his two oldest are in college.
Ryan watched the work Monday from the front yard with his youngest daughter, Cassie. “They’re so kind to do this,” Ryan said.
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He laughed when Cassie, his youngest daughter, handed him a flowery Chinese folding fan because she worried he was getting too hot. To ease the potential embarrassment of such a feminine fan, Deputy Arielle Riposta took it and began waving it around Ryan’s face.
Since the diagnosis, Ryan has worked about three months. But the cancer has spread, forcing him to focus on recovering. The chemotherapy treatments have sapped his strength.
“I can’t even push a lawn mower,” he said. “I haven’t been able to do anything around the house and it’s been falling apart.”
Ryan is on disability, receiving 60 percent of his salary as a deputy. He has had trouble paying the mortgage and other bills as medical debts pile up. The Richland County Sheriff’s Foundation has helped pay bills. Ryan’s fellow deputies have driven him to medical appointments. A neighbor regularly mows the yard.
Another sheriff’s department employee works with the Salkehatchie camp and put Ryan’s name on the list of recipients for this summer’s service projects. Through Salkehatchie, teens 14 and older sign up for a weeklong camp where they are deployed across South Carolina to help rebuild homes for those in need.
The week at Ryan’s house began with a devotional and a foot-washing ceremony, said Rhonda Gervais, one of three adult supervisors and a member of Buncombe Street United Methodist Church in Greenville.
“The kids love this work,” Gervais said. “Their parents don’t have to tell them to come. They beg to come to this camp.”
The teens took turns nailing sheets of wood on the roof as the sun bore down. A circular saw buzzed as one teen learned to cut wood. Others routinely paused to dip washcloths in ice water for a quick, cool sponge bath.
Bobby Hudson, 15, of Greenville is attending his second year at Salkehatchie. Hudson took a turn on the roof and wielded a chisel to tackle peeling paint around the home’s shutters.
“I just like to help people and learn construction,” he said.