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      Richland Co. Sheriff's Dept. hosts benefit ride for ailing deputy

      Ryan said he's feeling better and looks forward to returning to the force.

      / Jarid Munsch

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- The Richland County Sheriff's Department hosted a fundraiser Saturday for one of their own who's battling lung cancer.

      Live music and home cooking welcomed boaters and bikers at Big Man Shealy's on Lake Murray. Hundreds joined the RCSD for a benefit ride to raise money for Deputy Mark Ryan.

      Ryan has been battling advanced lung cancer for quite some time, keeping the single dad of three from serving his community. But Ryan says days like these allow him to breathe a sigh of relief.

      "It's kind of a culmination of several months of a long, hard struggle for myself," says Ryan.

      "Mark Ryan is part of our family," stated Richland Co. Sheriff Leon Lott. "Him and his three daughters are a very important part of our family. And in his time of struggle, we're going to be there for him."

      This is the second event of its kind for Deputy Ryan. In June, the RCSD raised over $10,000 for the deputy and his family.

      Ryan said he's feeling better and looks forward to returning to the force.

      "The radiation is taking care of what it needs to take care of, and my spine is healing," explains Ryan. "The tumor in my lung is shrinking; I can breathe much better. I have more energy, and I'm just looking forward to getting back to where I need to be."

      Sheriff Lott added he hopes to see Deputy Ryan healthy enough to rejoin the RCSD in a limited role sometime in August.