Do You Know Peyton Manning?

I got that question and these pictures from Jenn, an Air Force wife, trying to help her friends who lost everything in the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. I asked her to explain.

Peyton Manning autograph in post-tornado rubble

A favorite picture found in the rubble of the Brown home.

The Brown Family home. Mom, Dad and son were here during the tornado.

The Brown Family home. Mom, Dad and son were here during the tornado.

The Brown Family

Jenn met the Browns when they were all stationed in Alaska. Robin Brown and Jenn were both teachers’ aids in the same school. Jenn’s husband and Steve Brown were both Airmen and the kids were friends too. In every branch of service, there’s a lot of moving. People come in and out of your life all the time. But because military life is so all-encompassing, the friends you make become family and stay that way despite time or distance. In civilian life, you may or may not feel this way about former co-workers and neighbors.

When the tornado hit, Steve, Robin and their son Caleb were in a shelter below their home. Their daughter Megan was a few blocks away and took shelter there. Other family members were horrified as they watched weather updates and saw the tornado heading towards the Brown’s street. With raging winds ripping apart their home beam from beam above them, Robin had doubts that they would survive. Steve did his best to be reassuring. They all prayed.

After the tornado passed, they realized they were trapped in the shelter. They smelled gas and it became more and more difficult to breathe. Caleb was able to get a text out that they were alive and needed help. Megan ran past block after decimated block to find her own home reduced to rubble, but at least she knew her family was alive. It took 45 minutes to dig the Browns out. Those minutes felt longer. But the entire family felt lucky and grateful to still have each other.

“I feel helpless”

If Jenn lived nearby, she and her family would help clear rubble. And cook food. And take them in. And do anything they needed. The fact that she can’t do these things makes her feel helpless. “I know they’re strong people, but they’ve already been through so much with Robin’s stroke and all. I wish I could do something for them.”

Then Jenn found out about the, “buried treasure.” Amazingly, as the Browns searched through the rubble, Steve found that a few precious items had survived. He found a bible that his grandmother had given him. He found his Air Force shadow box, a gift he had received when he retired after 20 years of service. And he found something else that meant a great deal to him, an autographed picture of Peyton Manning that he had bought at charity event at an OKC Thunder game. The picture was beat up, but at least it wasn’t completely gone. To Jenn, she had found something that she could DO. She could try to get that one special thing, “back to normal.”

When you have nothing left, recovering a special item touches and strengthens your heart in a tremendous way. It’s something to hold onto as you begin the long process of rebuilding your life.

Do you know…

I do not know Peyton Manning. I asked a friend in advertising who used to work on a major beer account (I figured beer…NFL.) but he didn’t have a connection. Linked In says Manning is out of my network (no surprise.) Another friend of Jenn’s had already sent a message to Manning’s website and thus far, there has been no response. So I figured I’d write this post and ask my readers.

If you know Peyton Manning or you know someone who knows him, please forward this post or email me so I may reach out. Of course, if you’re reading this and you are Peyton Manning, that works even better. In that case, I would add:

“Mr. Manning, as you can see, the Browns are going through a tough time. I’m hoping you can help Jenn do this kind thing for them. I’m hoping you can replace your photo and sign it again. With all that the Browns need, it may seem strange to request this. But I know having something they loved restored to them would lift their spirits. And that may be one of the most important things of all right now. If you would like their contact info, you can reach me here: gina@ginaleftthemall.com. Thank you for your consideration.”

Some help and little things

If anyone would like to help out in other ways, some friends of the Browns started a giving page to help them rebuild and the Red Cross is in Oklahoma trying to help all of these families who lost so much. Simply click the links to learn more or take action.

In many posts, I talk about how much the little things mean to our deployed troops. How a cup of coffee or postcard sent with a few kind and encouraging words is an incredible morale boost. But you don’t have to be deployed for little things to have this effect. I think it applies to any tough situation. There is a long to-do list for the Browns before they get even close to, “replacing treasured autograph.” But if we can make this happen, I think it will make that long list feel just a little bit lighter.

*********  UPDATE 05-29-13, 5:51p.m. EST: OMG! WE DID IT!!  *************

Sports Anchor Lionel Bienvenu at ABC News Channel 7 KMGH in Denver, was able to reach out to Peyton and they will get another signed photo to the family!!

JENN:  I am truly at a loss for words! My husband says for the first time ever (laughter) THANK YOU to Channel 7 and THANK YOU TO EVERYONE who made my friend and her family feel cared about and loved and so touched in the midst of these nightmare days for them.

There have been a flurry of emails, messages, and people going out of their way for this project over the last 1.5  days. I will have more details and thank you’s on the next post, but please know that I am incredibly grateful for all of your efforts!  xoxo, G

© Gina left the mall, 2013

22 thoughts on “Do You Know Peyton Manning?

  1. Gina, I am a long-time Indiana resident and NFL fan who happens to follow several of Peyton’s old Indianapolis Colts teammates. I have sent a Facebook emails to some of them to see if we can reach Peyton. Hoping to help heal some emotional wounds with a small gift!

  2. I sent it to someone who might know someone who might know someone.

    In the meantime, I also bought a few cups of Joe for some Joes or Josephines.

    This was my message:
    “You are far away – but not forgotten. Thanks for all that you do. My friend has a blog that is so wonderful and is all about different troops and their stories and how we can help. It’s called “www.Ginaleftthemall.com”
    You are certainly the reason I’m sending this Cup of Warmth your way. But she is certainly the vehicle that got me there! Thank you! -Caren aka CJ

    • CJ-
      Thanks for sharing the post with someone who might know..etc. Maybe we can get that 6 degrees of separation thing to work! Thank you for sending the COJs, I think you’ll see how wonderful the program is. And thanks for the kind words 🙂

  3. Olivia and Archie (Peyton’s parents) live in New Orleans, which is where I’m from. I’ll check with someone who I think knows them. I’ll let you know ASAP.

    • Susan, thank you so much!! I am so grateful to everyone who is sharing and going out of their way to help make this happen. I was on the phone with Jenn earlier and I can’t tell you how much this all means to her!

      • I called the person who knows them, and I simply cannot believe she refused. She told me to contact Peyton’s fan club. I’ve got a few other people to try, so just give me time. I’m really ticked at this person–heartless!

        • Susan, who knows…maybe she gets asked so often she just tunes out and can’t hear how small this “ask” really is or how big an impact it can make…or that it’s for one of our military families, the people that do so much for us. What I do know for certain is how much your efforts are appreciated. Thank you again!

          • Most sports figures have certain protocol and restrictions to where and when they give out autographs. This may be the case with Susan’s friend.

            Susan.. Maybe just forwarding the blog to your friend and having them forward it to Peyton’s parents may be a little less invasive.

            • Devo, that may be the case. But I get the sense that Susan’s friend may not have expressed that. Luckily, whatever the protocol is, someone was able to bring this to Peyton’s attention and was happy to help this family.

  4. Gina, I never heard of Peyton Manning, but I hope your message gets through. I’m so happy the Brown family survived the tornado. I know it’ll take time, but they’ll rebuild their life again.

    • NP,
      I think you would know him if you saw a better picture than the tornado/rubble version in this post 🙂 Yes, the Browns will rebuild. And they will do it knowing that even people they’ve never met are rooting for them, caring about them, and trying to make this one special thing happen.

  5. I live in Durham, N.C. (home of Duke University). I don’t have a connection personally but Duke’s head football coach David Cutcliffe was Peyton’s coach at Tennessee. Peyton has been here for training over the last couple of seasons.

    Here’s the email address to Duke’s football office (found it on Cutcliffe’s school bio page):
    dukefootball@duaa.duke.edu

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