We Know Peyton Manning!

Tuesday morning I posted, Do You Know Peyton Manning? asking for your help. Wednesday afternoon we were successful!! I want to share details and thank everyone for the kindness of their efforts. For those that saw the post, you know that Jenn, an Air Force wife, wanted to help an Air Force family who lost everything in the tornado. For those that missed it, here’s the short version in pictures.

Peyton Manning autograph in post-tornado rubble

A treasured photo found in the rubble of the Brown home

This is the Brown Family's home and where three of them rode out the tornado.

This is the Brown family’s home. Mom, Dad and son rode out the tornado here.

This is the storm shelter the Brown family was in

This is the storm shelter the Brown family was in.

Robin finds out

Robin Brown didn’t know we were doing this until she saw the link on Jenn’s Facebook page.

JENN: I don’t normally ask my friends and family to share things on FB, but this is one time I am going to do just that….. I would like to ask each of my friends to read this blog and to share it on your FB time-line, and if you can get your friends to share it, then even better! My friend Robin and her family have been through a lot and if we can just get the right people to see this then we might just be able to make this happen!!

Robin was surprised and then so very moved as messages and emails started coming in. Here are a few:

—I met Robin Brown when we were stationed at Keesler AFB, MS. Always there with a kind word, prayer, and a smile. If you have any idea who may have any connections to Peyton Manning, this would be incredible for this Moore, OK family. In the meantime we will continue to keep this community in our hearts and prayers.

 … “My friend tweeted this to Eli Manning!!

…That is such a great thing you are trying to do. I pray this msg gets to Peyton and it helps the family find some peace after that terrible tornado.

…My friend was a Colts cheerleader while Peyton was there. I’ll forward to her

…Shared it with a good friend in CO…..see if he has any connections???

…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!

…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.

…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.

The real “win”

Jenn shared a text she got from Robin:

Jennifer you’re awesome! I saw your link last night and was taken back at how my friends and my Air Force family have been so kind. You realize even if we only do a quick chat or share recipes, or lives on candy crush you still have that bond of friendship for life and when one of our own are in need we step up and try to take care of each other. I don’t know how I can replace the kindness of others but know if any one of my Air Force friends or other friends ever are in need I will mimic the same kindness I have been given. I love you all! I know “thank you” is all I got but its not enough to repay the kindness of so many people that have touched our lives. Love to you and all my friends!

After Jenn saw that, she told me,

“You know what? Even if we don’t succeed, we’ve already won. For Robin to see how much people care and to really feel it? That’s the win right there.”

My new favorite TV channel in Denver

Jenn also shared the post on pages such as Air Force family support, sports, talk shows, and a news channel in Denver. She wrote:

I am an Air Force wife… When you move from duty station to duty station you build a whole new family… an Air Force family. No matter how far away you live from that family you have built, when something happens to one of those family members you try to help them any way you can… you reach out to anyone you can think of… This is the story of my friend Robin and her family they lost everything in the tornado in OK...

Deb Stanley, a multimedia journalist for ABC News Channel 7 in Denver responded. Their sportscaster, Lionel Bienvenu, would see Peyton at practice the next day. She asked Lionel to help.

Check your messages!!

When you lose your entire home you also lose things like your phone charger. Robin was trying to find one when her son said, “Mom! Jenn says to check your messages!!”  When Robin was finally able to, she read:

OMG!! We did it!! I just got a message from ABC 7 news in Denver… The sports anchor Lionel Bienvenu reached out to Peyton and they are going to get you another signed photo!!!

What I like to imagine is that moment when Robin turned around and told Steve. When, in the middle of a bad news week, she was able to share news that came with a whole lot of good. Good thoughts, good prayers and the always good…kindness of strangers, including Peyton Manning.

A loss for words

Jenn and Robin are both struggling to find words that capture how thankful they are. I know how they feel. How can I convey how grateful I am to all my readers, to all who shared and reached out, to my new favorite TV channel in Denver and to Mr. Manning?

You know, the Browns will have a beautiful photo long before they’ll have a wall to hang it on. But I hope that when the road ahead gets tough, that they can look at that photo and know how many people are rooting for them. To know that they are not alone. I thank you all for giving them that gift.

© Gina left the mall, 2013

Long-Distance Rescue

Jack was 4 and did not want to speak to his deployed dad on the phone. No matter how hard his mom tried. His dad, Andrew* (*name changed for privacy) was one of the troops I was writing to in Afghanistan. His son’s silence was breaking his heart. I tried to help. First with words, then with action. Action worked better.

Steal a helicopter

I’m not a child psychologist, but I am a mom. I shared my mom-guess that Jack’s reaction was normal. “Rejecting” a phone call is a way to have control in a situation where he was otherwise powerless. Especially since Jack had clearly told his dad to, “steal a helicopter and come home now!” When his dad did not comply, what else was there to say? I told Andrew, “it’s not that your son doesn’t love you… his anger is because he loves you so much.”

Also, this little boy did not live in a military community so, there weren’t other kids in the same boat. Everyone else had their dads. Where was his? You can’t hug National Security. That whole idea doesn’t mean much to a preschooler. My pen pal thought this all made sense but it didn’t help his mood.

Closer to home

I thought Andrew would feel better as he got closer to going home. I was wrong. It’s almost like time slowed down for him. Me brightly saying, “hey, you’re one day closer!” did not lift his spirits.

I wanted to have some positive effect on this Serviceman. But how? Nothing short of being with his boy was going to cut it. Or maybe… I could do something that would make his son smile. If I could do that, I knew Andrew would be thrilled. Whether that thrill lasted a day or just a few minutes, it would be time spent less stressed.


Okay, so what could I do for Jack, a child that I do not know at all?  Wait, that’s not exactly true…I knew his Halloween costume was Ironman. His favorite blanket is blue, named “Blue.” His favorite stuffed animal is “Kitty.” Kitty has been repaired so many times that Jack’s mom feared that one day, there would be nothing left to sew. And I knew that Jack absolutely L-O-V-E-S fire trucks and firefighters.

I was also well aware that I live in the same city as one of the most amazing Fire Departments on the planet, the FDNY. Who better to help me rescue Andrew’s sinking morale? So I reached out to Engine Company 8, Ladder 2 in Midtown Manhattan. Could they help this troop connect with his son? Hold some signs? Surprise a little boy that these real official firefighters in NYC “knew” him and cared about him? The FDNY Lieutenant I spoke to said they would be more than happy to.

When I got to the firehouse, they were out on a call but a firefighter in the office asked me to please stay close by. When I came back again, the Lieutenant gathered his men and asked me to tell them about Andrew and Jack. This family they didn’t know mattered to them. They extended an invitation to Jack to visit any time. I was only there a few minutes but I was very touched by their genuine kindness. I had tears in my eyes when I took this picture.

FDNY helps deployed troop by saying hi to his little boy

FDNY Engine Co. 8, Ladder 2

Sending a lifeline

Andrew was so excited when he received this picture!! He immediately sent it to Jack’s mom, and to the grandparents and other family members and a thank you note to the firemen and, and, and… I could feel his energy when he wrote me about all of this. More importantly, I could feel his happiness when he told me that Jack thought the picture was “awesome.” They had spoken about it on the phone.

© Gina left the mall, 2013