HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Sometimes in life, the biggest gifts come in small packages. For Clay and Malynda Carroll, that gift only weighed one pound, 15 ounces at birth. But that little miracle has already touched hearts in a big way.
Reece Carroll came into this world 13 weeks early. He was born on Dec 19, 2014. He began his journey in the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. His parents wanted to do something to give back to the staff for the care and love their family had been shown. So on a Saturday night in January, 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 goes to Melissa’s fund to buy life-saving equipment for babies like Reece.
Clay Carroll wanted to buy one for his son. In fact, it was all he could think about that night. Clay told us, “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?”
Earlier in the evening, he talked to a fan who was wearing one of the jerseys from a previous year. She told him some of them would go for thousands of dollars. Clay’s response was, “Woah. All I’ve got is maybe about 500 because I’ve been laid off from work since October.” You might as well have hit him in the head with a hockey stick! Clay had a budget and he knew what his cutoff point was to get one. “I was going to be pushing it with 500 dollars,” he said.
When the auction finally started, he was holding onto hope. “I was raising my hand at 300, then 500, and then I’m out,” Clay recalls. That hope was turning into disappointment. He remembers, “It was a big letdown when I was seeing these jerseys go for so much. I mean, it’s going to a great cause but I just couldn’t afford it.”
Clay says his wife was giving him that “let’s go” look. Although laughing, she doesn’t remember exactly what that look was.
As he turned to walk up the stairs of the lower section of Propst Arena, a man he’d never met stopped him. "He said, hang on one second. I got your son a jersey." He took two steps and it hit him -- it was a random act of kindness by a total stranger.
We found out James Powe was that stranger. “I felt good about doing something for somebody else,” Powe told us. He was with a friend when Clay walked up to ask about the jersey she was wearing. He could tell by the look on Clay’s face that this new dad probably wasn’t going to be able to take a jersey home that night for his son. Powe was determined to buy a jersey for the Carroll’s after the game.
Before the auction started, the Havoc organization played a story on the arena’s big screen that WHNT News 19 did several years ago. It featured the nurses who care for those tiny little miracles. The story brought a lot of people to tears, including the dad whose little boy was about a mile away fighting to live.
James Powe will never forget seeing the tears in Clay Carroll’s eyes.
“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 was on a mission to buy a jersey for Clay and Reece.
Malynda Carroll couldn’t believe it. "I was in complete shock for the fact that someone would spend so much money on somebody that had no clue who they were," she said.
That simple unselfish act of kindness made the world a little bit better that night. It’s a night Clay Carroll will never forget, “God knew how bad I wanted a jersey and He made it happen. It was just a blessing.”
Reece was in the NICU for 71 days. He’s now at home with mom and dad and growing every day.