Members of the Texoma community gathered together in Sherman Saturday to support Grayson County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Rickey Wheeler as he battles cancer.
Local brewery 903 Brewers hosted its third annual Chili Cook-off and car show as a fundraiser to assist Wheeler and his family with his medical bills and recovery. In addition to the chili-cooking competition and classic muscle cars, the event featured live music, cold beer, a bake sale and a live auction. Attendees left donations, wrote words of encouragement and competition winners even returned their cash prizes so they could be used to help the veteran officer.
“We don’t have words to express how grateful we are for all of this,” Wheeler said as he stood with his wife Laura. “It’s definitely completely overwhelming to us that this many people would show up.”
In his 25 years with the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office, Wheeler has served numerous roles, including K-9 unit handler, criminal investigator, narcotics officer, media liaison and administrator. Wheeler received his diagnoses in February, after doctors discovered cancerous masses in his head and neck.
“Everyone was shocked because he has always been the picture of health,” Sheriff Tom Watt said. “And he’s so well thought of by everybody at our organization that it really knocked everyone off balance.”
Watt described Wheeler as family and said his extensive knowledge and experience within the agency has helped his fellow officers and coworkers succeed.
“Not so jokingly, I refer to him as our organizational memory,” Watt said. “He knows everything there is to know about the the sheriff’s office. When you have an asset like that in someone, it really gives you peace of mind. We always say, ‘Oh, Rickey will know that.’”
903 Brewers founder Jeremy Roberts estimated that more than 1,000 people attended the fundraiser and said he hoped to raise in the neighborhood of $10,000 for Wheeler, a longtime friend. But Roberts said it wasn’t the food or the fun that drew the crowds.
“These people aren’t here for the beer, the chili or the cars,” Roberts said. “They’re here because they support Rickey and they appreciate what he’s done for the community over all these years.”
Roberts said while many in Grayson County might know and love Wheeler for the work he has done in uniform, he’s just as generous when he’s off the clock.
“Rickey has been one of the most honest, hard-working officers,” Roberts said. “He really wants to make the community safe and he wants to make it better. He’s just got a big heart and that’s true no matter what he’s doing.”
Wheeler’s cancer has since spread to his bones and has progressed to Stage 4. But Wheeler and his wife said they’re optimistic that he will recover.
“I feel really good today and a little bit stronger today,” Wheeler said. “We attribute a big part of that to the community and what they’re doing here to help us.”
Those interested in donating to the Wheeler family may also do so through the crowdfunding site Go Fund Me. For additional information, call the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office at 903-813-4408.