NORMAN — Friends and family of Dan McInnis are inviting everyone to come out Saturday to the inaugural Norman Cowboy Family Fun Day to help pay the former deputy’s medical bills.
The event’s title comes from a nickname given to McInnis by Robert Smith, who was his partner when they were narcotics investigators with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’ve always had horses my whole life and we worked narcotics I wore CINCH blue jeans and cowboy boots to work,” he recalled, speaking on the phone from his hospital bed Thursday night. “And I’m from Norman and Robert said, ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a Norman cowboy’ … so it stuck.”
McInnis is currently admitted for sepsis, kidney failure and a clostridium difficile, or C. diff, infection. The latter is a bacterium that causes an inflammation of the colon, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most cases occur when taking antibiotics and recent hospitalization is another risk factor.
McInnis said he has been in the hospital about 100 days within the last year, including for a respiratory infection a few weeks back.
Within the past five years, McInnis has battled C. diff 16 times, strokes, spontaneous brain bleeds and brain surgery — when his family was told he had a 15 percent chance to survive — congestive heart failure and Crohn’s disease.
“If a person don’t believe in God, they need to come talk to me,” he said. “I would absolutely not be here if it wasn’t for God.
“I’d love to tell you I’m some tough guy … but nobody’s that tough.”
Although he was told not to ride again, ever the cowboy, McInnis said he still mounts his horse, Son, whenever he can, saying it’s therapeutic.
“It’s the one thing I love more than anything and still able to do,” he said. “My horse has been my refuge.”
McInnis said he loves going to the Uwharrie National Forest to ride.
“Initially my family was against it but now understand it does me more good than harm,” he said. “I tell them if I ever die at Uwharrie on my horse, celebrate — don’t cry. I will have died doing what I love, not in a hospital bed.”
Saturday’s event gets started with at 9 a.m. with registration for a 5K walk that begins at 10. Once that starts, registration will open for a cornhole tournament that will commence at 11, along with the sale of barbecue and chicken plates which will continue until 7 p.m., “or until we run out of food, whichever’s first.”
Attendees will be able to place bids in an auction with items and services donated from local businesses, including: oil changes, haircuts and tanning bed visits; a Tar Heels basketball signed by retired player Al Wood; two golf packages, one to Whispering Pines and another to Foxfire; and a saddle donated by Circle M Livestock in Troy.
Registration for a car and bike show begins at 3 p.m. with judging at 4, but McInnis said drivers can cruise in whenever they want.
There will also be pony rides and a bounce house for the kids, a bake sale with cakes and pies and McInnis’ former partner will be the DJ for the day.
All the events will take place between the Norman Community Center and the Norman Stage.
McInnis is hoping to be released from the hospital by then so he can attend.
The plan is to make this an annual event, with proceeds going toward a scholarship for law enforcement, first responders and nurses — because of his 12 years as a deputy and the profession of those who have saved his life — starting next year.
“Most of the guys that I knew in (Basic Law Enforcement Training) were already grown and married and going back to school and working,” he said, as were the paramedic and nursing students.
“What we want to do is do a scholarship that pays directly to the student and they can do what they want to with it,” he said. “I remember … how tough it was.”
By then, McInnis hopes he’ll be well enough to solicit donations toward the scholarship.
“Depending on how much we raise,” he said, “hopefully we’ll have enough to do more than one.”