Church Fitness Program Honors Tulsa Murder Victim

Saturday, January 24th 2009, 5:34 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Saturday is the kickoff to Sweeney Strong, a 12 week fitness program at First United Methodist Church in Tulsa.

It's named after Neal Sweeney, a longtime church member and avid supporter of the church's fitness programs.

Gloria Newman is involved in the program.

"I needed to get myself back in an exercise routine," said Gloria Newman, a member of First United Methodist Church.

"It's perfect. It's exactly perfect. This is what he would hope for, for everybody in our church and in our family," said Sarah Ivie, Sweeney's daughter.

Neal Sweeney was shot and killed inside his business last September. His killer has still not been found, but police released a sketch of a man they say they want to question.

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"We have our strong days, our Sweeney strong days and we have the days where it feels it just happened, the shock still hasn't worn off even five months later," said Sarah Ivie.

This is the eighth year for the fitness program. Organizers say last year's turnout wasn't very good and they were worried whether it would continue.

But then they thought, who better to honor than Neal Sweeney. The Sweeney Strong motto is a familiar phrase around the church and organizers say it's a fitting tribute to a man who loved to stay fit.

"I was actually talking to someone the other day who told me that this was going to help him feel a sense of peace and healing about this whole tragedy and that is why he is specifically doing it," said Joy Hancock, Sweeney Strong organizer.

Gloria Newman admits, her friend's memory is what keeps her going.

"Everybody just loves his wife and daughters and kids and I think this is just showing them a lot of support," said Newman.

There is a reward of more than $25,000 for information about Neal Sweeney's murder that leads to an arrest and conviction.

If you know anything, call Crimestoppers at 596-COPS. You can remain anonymous.