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

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