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Sullivan’s Balloons

Family, friends celebrate 18th birthday of boy killed by drunk driver

Posted: November 22, 2017 4:46 p.m.
Updated: November 24, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Many of the 177 balloons released at 1:44 p.m. Wednesday to celebrate the late Sullivan Spradley’s 18th birthday float through the air over Lugoff. Sullivan’s family sold the balloons, T-shirts and other items to raise money for a scholarship in his name that will assist yet-to-be-awarded members of the Lugoff-Elgin High School Class of 2018, with whom he would have graduated next May.

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Nearly 200 people gathered at the Kershaw County Recreation West Complex on Wednesday to celebrate the 18th birthday of a boy killed 12 ½  years ago by a drunk driver.

Sullivan Spradley died on Father’s Day 2005 when a drunk driver struck him while he was riding his bike with his father and a cousin near his home on Shivers Green Road. He was only 5 years old.

Those gathered at the West Complex -- who included Sullivan’s parents, Tim and Tonya Spradley; brothers, Spencer, Sawyer and Saxon; and hundreds of other family members, friends and law enforcement officers -- released 100 balloons in his honor at exactly 1:44 p.m., the time of his birth 18 years ago. The family and their supporters sold the balloons, along with T-shirts and other items to raise money for a special scholarship to benefit yet-to-be selected members of the Lugoff-Elgin High School Class of 2018, with whom Sullivan would have graduated next May.

Tim said about five or six of those eligible students attended kindergarten with Sullivan all those years ago.

“We’re not just giving the scholarship away; they will have to write some kind of paper,” Tim Spradley said.

Tonya said they are still nailing down the specifics, but believes they will award multiple scholarships.

Pictures of their son, including photo albums, were displayed on a picnic table. Cupcakes were also available for attendees to enjoy.

While it’s been nearly 13 years since they lost their son, Tim and Tonya Spradley said they have managed to keep going.

“We just keep on. We have to,” Tim said. “We have no choice.”

“With a lot of prayer,” Tonya added.

While Sawyer, 10, and Saxon, 9, were not yet born when Sullivan died, his now 16-year-old brother Spencer, was 3 and does have memories of him.

“I remember little stuff, especially when I look at the pictures,” Spencer said. “I remember one Christmas we had a gator in the living room.”

An electric-powered gator, that is, something like a power wheel toy.

“I also remember, at Wateree (Elementary School) when they did the painting on the wall for him,” he said.

Tonya said Saywer and Saxon always want to hear stories about the brother they never got to meet.

“They like to see pictures and watch videos we have of him, and they talk about which one of them looks more like Sullivan,” she said.

With many tears in many eyes, those gathered sang “Happy Birthday’’ to Sullivan just before releasing the balloons, which then floated away through the Lugoff skies.

To learn more about Sullivan’s story and to see pictures of him, visit


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