By Mercy's Brad Haller
A memento once thought to be lost forever in the Joplin tornado has finally found its Mercy family, just in time for the holidays.
In the hours after the May 2011 tragedy, Gabe McClintock was among the thousands who descended on the community to help clean up. “The moment I stepped out of my truck, I saw a blue baseball, in perfect condition, near my feet,” he recalled. “It had a six-month-old’s name written on it — Rylan — and it said he was born at what used to be St. John’s Hospital.”
McClintock vowed to seek out Rylan’s family, but the timing just wasn’t right. “Cell phones didn’t work across the city and so many people were trying to assess what had just happened,” he said. “I figured I’d let the dust settle a bit,” so he carefully wrapped up the baseball and tucked it away at his home in nearby Carl Junction, Missouri.
“At first I was a little nervous that maybe the little boy was lost in the tornado,” McClintock said. The baseball was out of sight and, eventually, out of mind — until McClintock’s recent move. “I was unpacking and the instant I saw the ball again I knew it was time to send it home.”
McClintock reached out to Mercy Hospital Joplin to get the ball rolling, this time with more reason than ever to make a special connection.
“That same day I learned I was going to have a little boy of my own,” he said. “And being so close to Christmas, I thought, ‘What a great present for this family.’”
With the assistance of a Mercy co-worker, McClintock was able to make a connection. “It wasn’t even five minutes and the little boy’s dad called me, saying his wife had just received a crazy, unbelievable phone call.”
It turns out Rylan was in good health, and had just turned four years old. “It was a relief that everything was fine with the little guy and the family,” McClintock said. Parents Travis and Megan Murray, both Mercy co-workers at the time the tornado struck, were also doing just fine.
“There were many emotions the day Gabe called,” Megan recalled. “We’d been through a lot since the tornado, so this was a good turn of events.” The Murrays had only lived at their Joplin home a few weeks before the tornado struck. “We were actually in the middle of renovation. After dinner, we ran to Walmart to get groceries, but ended up stuck in the store while the storm passed. We lost our house, but we were grateful just to be alive and have each other.”
Very little was left behind. “I found my daughter’s baby book, but I hadn’t made one yet for Rylan,” Megan said. “The baseball was a gift from a family member, and I’d written his baby stats on it when we got home from Mercy. It had a prominent place in his room. After the storm, we assumed it was gone forever.”
McClintock arranged a face-to-face meeting with Rylan’s father to give back the ball. “Travis actually brought Rylan along with him,” McClintock said. “It was an awesome experience, seeing him sitting there; he was a bit shy, but full of life. It just makes me feel like I did the right thing.”
Mother Megan couldn’t agree more. “I’m grateful that Gabe kept it and thought about us,” she said. “Today the ball is on my dresser, and it’s not going anywhere!” It was an early Christmas gift the Murrays won’t soon forget.
Ed Thompson, the Mercy Joplin co-worker who helped McClintock locate the Murrays, shared their story through Mercy’s “Our Blessings Count” website. Thompson wrote, “I’m thankful and feel blessed that during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season that total strangers reach out to their fellow man for no gain other than doing the right thing.”
If you have a story you’d like to share, or to count your blessings this holiday season, visit OurBlessingsCount.com.