Back on January 23, 2018, tragedy struck at Marshall County High School when a student opened fire on his classmates. Preston Ryan Cope and Bailey Nicole Holt, two 15-year old students at the school, died and nineteen other students were injured.
For the VRBO Citrus Bowl on Tuesday, the University of Kentucky honored Preston Cope, a diehard Wildcats fan, and his legacy by inviting his family down to Orlando, FL for the game.
Mitch Barnhart and the UK Athletics department flew Cope’s father, mother, and little brother down to Orlando to watch Kentucky defeat Penn State 27-24. In the process, they stayed with the players and coaching staff, having all the fun the football team was able to have throughout the week.
WPSD Local 6, a station located down in Paducah, KY, highlighted the family’s trip to Orlando in a segment on their newscast. They were able to interview the family members about what this gesture meant to them, saying their son would have absolutely loved to be here to witness it.
“It’s a roller coaster. You are up one day and down the next,” Brian Cope, Preston’s father, told WPSD. “We felt that way yesterday. We were up, and happy, and I would think about ‘I wish Preston was here to experience this,’ because he would’ve loved it.”
At one point in the trip, the family got to meet Kentucky star running back Benny Snell, where they shared an incredible exchange.
While Snell autographed a jersey for Preston’s brother, the family gave the Wildcat running back a blue bracelet with “#playlikePreston” written around the outside.
“The bracelet is not just a bracelet,” Preston’s mother, Teresa Cope, said. “It is a reminder of our son Preston and his faith and love and God, and sports, and UK.”
Snell actually wore the bracelet during the game, which can be seen in numerous pictures of the star running back.
“People have been sending us pictures all day long with Benny and that record-breaking touchdown. you can see the bracelet on, and it is just… it brought tears to our eyes that Preston was right there in that moment,” Brian Cope said.
Cope’s family wrote the following letter for the world to see, highlighting the kind gestures Mitch Barnhart and the entire UK Athletics department showed following the tragedy down in Marshall County:
For the entire story, head on over to WPSD Local 6 here.