HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Sometimes in life, the biggest gifts come in small packages. For one couple, that gift only weighed one pound, 15 ounces at birth. Almost four years ago, that little miracle touched one hockey fan's heart in a big way.
Reece Carroll came into this world 13 weeks early. His mom and dad, Clay and Malynda Carroll, knew they were blessed. They were looking in some small way to give back to the staff of the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville for Woman and Children for the love and care they’d been shown.
They headed to Melissa George Night with the Huntsville Havoc. That’s the night the players wear special jerseys that are auctioned off after the game. The money raised goes to the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund to buy life saving equipment for babies like their son.
Clay really wanted to buy one for his son Reece. That’s all he thought about that night. “During that whole game I was just thinking you know, how much money I got. How much is it going to take to get one?” he remembered. He’d talked to a fan who was wearing one from a previous year.
She told him some of the jerseys would go for thousands of dollars, but he only had a budget of $500 because he’d been laid off from his job in October. When the auction finally started, he was holding onto hope. “I was raising my hand at 300, then 500, then I’m out,” Clay remembered. Hope was turning into disappointment.
As he turned to walk up the stairs, a man he’d never met before stopped him saying, “Hang on one second. I got your son a jersey.” Clay took two steps and it hit him. “Huh? You got Reece a jersey?” he said. It was a random act of kindness from a total stranger.
James Powe was sitting with the woman when Clay walked up to ask her about the jersey she was wearing. At that point, he was determined to buy a jersey for them that night. Before the auction, the Havoc played a story we did on the NICU several years ago. It brought a lot of people to tears, including the dad whose little boy was about a mile away fighting to live.
“And he started breaking down and tearing up a bit, and it just kinda hit me that if I was going to do it and I got one, that I was going to give it to them,” Powe told us. That simple act of kindness that night made the world a little better.
The Carroll family hasn’t missed a Melissa George Night with the Havoc since that night. Clay got a great job, so he and his wife bid and try to buy a jersey every year to support the work Melissa’s fund does for those tiny little miracles in the NICU.
And Reece? He’s now four and is one of the Havoc’s biggest fans. Who knows? Down the road, the little guy could grow up and become part of the next miracle on ice.
The 13th annual Melissa George Night with the Huntsville Havoc is Saturday, February 2 at 7 p.m. The jersey auction will immediately follow the game. This year, the focus is on giving back to NICU parents. You’re encouraged to bring an item for the NICU parent waiting room, things like K-cups, food or gas gift cards or individually wrapped snacks. The first 1,000 people to donate will receive a commemorative travel coffee mug.