ATHENS — Before Keith and Erin Loper owned Fizzy Swig Specialty Sodas, they were loyal customers of the business.
Fizzy Swig opened in 2017 and offers specialty sodas ranging from the Good Doctor — a customer favorite that features Dr Pepper mixed with strawberry, vanilla, coconut and cream — to the Paradise Sunset — Sprite mixed with blue raspberry, coconut, peach and fresh lemon.
While their purchase of the business has been a source of great joy, the event that led them to the decision was much rockier.
In June, the Lopers' daughter, Rylann, was playing in a softball tournament when she suffered a heat stroke. In the days that followed, she began having seizures, and after several visits to the emergency room, was diagnosed with functional neurological disorder.
During some of her toughest moments, Loper said his daughter had to use a wheelchair and had a limited vocabulary.
"It was a really, really scary time," Loper said.
Along with the emotional toll the family experienced, Loper said there was also a significant financial burden because Rylann's treatments were not covered by their insurance.
Fortunately, the family learned very
quickly that they were not alone in their struggle.
Tyler Swim Academy, where the Lopers' children had swam competitively, started an online fundraiser to help with the cost of Rylann's therapy.
Closer to home, other groups and individuals raised funds to help the family by selling barbecue sandwiches, holding a softball tournament and more.
The Lopers were blown away by the amount of people letting them know they were in their prayers.
When the former owner of Fizzy Swig announced she was selling the business, the family saw it as an opportunity to gain an additional source of income that could help pay their daughter's medical bills.
Since August, the Lopers have enjoyed offering sodas that are as unique as the names they're given.
On July 4, the business offered the Yoda Soda, telling customers "May the 4th be with you." They also keep a secret menu of recipes for sodas that regulars have either inspired or often request.
The menus, positioned alongside the drive-thru windows, show customers ways to select a soda they enjoy, such as strawberry Fanta, before choosing specific drinks that add a twist on the soda, such as the Tropical Blast or The Hulk.
Customers are also given the option to decide what flavors and extras they would like in their drinks. Floats were recently added to the menu.
Many of the drinks, depending on size, range in price from $2 to $6.
Loper said he hopes those who visit, leave having enjoyed a drink that was "fun and unique."
"It's about having a different experience," he added. "If you don't like it, we will make you something you like."
Loper said Rylann has made significant improvement since June. Through the business, the Lopers have also been able to give back to other families in the community who may be going through a rough patch.
Loper added that the whole experience has given him a deeper understanding and appreciation of both faith and community.
"It put a new faith in my household that we pray together on a regular basis now and we do things together spiritually that we'd never done before, or we did intermittently before," he said.
IF YOU GO
• Fizzy Swig Specialty Sodas, 119 S. Palestine St. in Athens, offers specialty sodas. The business' hours are 2:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on the weekends. For more information or updates, visit the business' Facebook page.