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Bogota Police Captain Helps Connect Special Needs Athlete With Eli Manning

Vermillion (S.D.) Officer John Cole, John Manning
Vermillion (S.D.) Officer John Cole, John Manning Photo Credit: COURTESY: Bogota Police Capt. James Sepp
NY Giants offensive lineman Adam Gettis
NY Giants offensive lineman Adam Gettis Photo Credit: COURTESY: Bogota Police Capt. James Sepp
John Manning
John Manning Photo Credit: COURTESY: Bogota Police Capt. James Sepp

BOGOTA, N.J. -- A Bogota police captain helped bring a smile to a Special Olympian with a special name.

A month or so ago, Capt. James Sepp got a call from Officer John Cole, who works with the Special Olympics program in South Dakota -- the same as Sepp does here in New Jersey.

While at an all-star game in Vemillion, S.C., Cole spotted a young man on the sidelines wearing a jersey but no shoulder pads.

It turned out the special needs student was the honorary captain for his high school team and for that night's all-star game.

His name: John Manning.

While taking with John's mom, the eight-year police veteran jokingly asked whether the family was related to Eli and Peyton Manning.

"She said no but that her son felt he was," Sepp told Daily Voice. "She said he wished he could meet either of them but figured it would never happen."

Cole called Sepp, knowing that he could contact Giants player Adam Gettis, a huge supporter of New Jersey Special Olympics.

"Adam said it would be an honor to arrange for Eli to sign John's jersey," Sepp said.

John's mother cried when Cole told her what was happening. Now all she had to do was secretly snatch her son's jersey -- which Cole then shipped to Sepp.

"A couple of days later Adam called and said he had the signed jersey in hand," the captain said. "He said that Eli was very happy that he could do that for this young athlete and asked if he could meet him someday."

On Monday Cole brought the jersey to a local pizzeria where John works as a greeter, and presented it to him in front of friends and co-workers.

"John was completely surprised and his mother and father were so grateful," Sepp said. "[Cole] made a video thanking Adam and Eli and sent it to me to pass along to them.

"It feels good to know we helped bring one special young man one step closer to meeting his idol."

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