The Edmond Sun

Local News

June 8, 2012

‘Secret Millionaire’ helps locals

Episode airs Sunday night on ABC

EDMOND — Edmond has a secret. It’s going to be on national television Sunday.

Two locals — Charlie Swearingen, a member of the U.S. Men’s National Sitting Volleyball team, and Connor Karow, a 9-year-old student at Deer Creek Grove Valley Elementary — will appear on the ABC reality show “Secret Millionaire.”

The premise of the show is self-made millionaires go to low-income areas of the country, live on welfare-level wages and find local heroes to whom they donate a chunk of their own money.

Connor was born without his right leg above the knee, said his mother Colleen Karow.

That’s when the Limbs for Life Foundation, a global nonprofit organization at 218 E. Main St. in Oklahoma City, came into play for the Karows.

“They’ve been helping Connor since he was a baby,” Colleen said.

His first leg came at 8 months so he could learn to balance.

The show’s producers brought Connor in to meet Swearingen at the University of Central Oklahoma to learn how to play sitting volleyball. Swearingen also works closely with the nonprofit.

The show’s producers interviewed Connor about his accomplishments and connection with the organization.

Connor is at ease with his local celebrity after the taping for the ABC TV show.

“If I opened my own Facebook page, I’d like the attention of my followers,” said Connor, who dismissively added that he didn’t know how many times he’d been on TV.

Swearingen is a resident athlete at UCO, an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training center.

Originally from Gulfport, Miss., Swearingen’s legs were amputated above the ankle at 9 months because his feet did not develop weight-bearing bones, according to the USA Volleyball team’s website.

Both Swearingen and Connor Karow competed in the 13th UCO Endeavor Games, which continues through Sunday. In the show, Anytime Fitness founders Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen volunteer with the organization. The show’s producers told, Pam Timmons, Limbs for Life development director, they were looking for a small nonprofit that was making a huge impact. But made no mention of a donation.

“What they told us was they were producing a documentary on volunteering,” Timmons said.

The crew filmed for a week in August. At the end of the week the show’s producers gathered the volunteers, sans the millionaires, in a circle to do a recap of events.

“We honestly thought we were going to work that day,” Timmons said.

Then the millionaires came out and presented a check to the organization.

Timmons said she’s not allowed to tell the check amount until after the show, but did say that the money given cut the waiting list for prosthetic care from about a year to four months, helping 50 amputees.

Limbs for Life also received new storage bins, a label maker, tools and all the things needed for breaking down donated U.S. prosthetics, which the organization reconditions and sends to about 700 people needing care internationally every year.

Although the millionaires got into the organization through the TV show, they’ve remained as a presence, Timmons said. Runyon has since written a book called “Working Out Sucks,” of which all proceeds go to Limbs for Life, according to the book’s website.

“Secret Millionaire” airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC.

MORE INFORMATION on Limbs for Life can be found at limbsforlife.org or by calling 605-5462.

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