SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. — The Light of Hope memorial honors Sumter's missing. The light post and benches were unveiled on on Harvin Street on Sunday.
"For 21 years, we’ve been searching for answers," Wilveria Sanders told me.
That’s how long it’s been since Sanders’ brother Shelton went missing. He was a student at the University of South Carolina studying information technology when he went missing on June 19, 2001. His family still doesn’t know what happened.
"We’re already suffering the loss of not having my brother, but not knowing where he is or having a proper burial to go and see him and put flowers on his grave, like, we didn’t even have that opportunity," Sanders shared.
The new memorial in downtown Sumter is bringing awareness to Shelton and Sumter’s other missing people.
"All of the missing persons in Sumter, you know, we just…this is just their light here that resembles how much we miss them and how much we want them home," Sanders explained. "The Light of Hope is for us to reflect and honor our loved ones, missing loved ones. Just to thank God for their life, reflect on the things that we’ve experienced with our loved one throughout the years, things they may have missed in life. This is a time where you can come out and just sit and think."
It’s a place to reflect on memories, pray for answers and unite with others going through a similar circumstance.
"I mean, this is just the most beautiful thing that I could ever think of for missing families. This is awesome," she said. "No other better place to put it but here in the center. It’s like the eye of Sumter, so it’s a place where we want to bring them home in this location where they belong."
Sanders was 11-years-old when her brother went missing. Now more than two decades later, she's dedicating her life to searching for the truth.
Sanders’ family is offering a $50,000 reward for any information leading to the discovery of Shelton’s remains. To report a tip, you can call Sanders' personal tip line at 803-427-4209 or email FindingSheltonSanders@gmail.com.
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