Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Searching for Missing Super Kid from Super Bowl

I spent a week in Indianapolis searching for, and filing story after story related to the big game between the Patriots and Giants.  We did some fine work, and had a great time doing it.  In all, my TV network did about 100 hours of television coverage.  That's a lot.

Kevin Walsh, outside Lucas Oil Stadium

Kevin (red tie) with crew inside Lucas Oil Stadium after Super Bowl 46

But there's one story that hasn't been told completely, and I will be restless until it's told in its entirety.  It has little to do with football, and everything to do with kindness, humanity and what became a popular slogan during Super Bowl 46: Hoosier Hospitality. 

Let me explain.  I left my suburban Boston home a week before Super Bowl Sunday, saying goodbye to my wife, Jean, and daughters Samantha, 10, Amanda, 8.  I was thrilled to cover my first Super Bowl.  But as usual, I was sad to leave the family behind.  This is the tougher side of TV.  We do very exciting work and see things that most people will never have the chance to, but at the end of the day, we go back to a very quiet and lonely hotel room.  It rarely changes, only the city does.

When I arrived at the Fairfield Hotel in Indianapolis, there was something waiting for me that made me feel at home right away.  It was a handwritten welcome card from a Super Kid named Breanna.  About 36,000 students from around Indiana colored cards that were left for visitors to Indianapolis.  She drew a picture of herself which you see above.  She wrote about how much she loved animals and the Indianapolis Zoo.  Below is her additional artwork that was on the back of the card.  It looked like something my girls do for me from time to time, artwork that often ends up on the refrigerator.

One thing I've discovered in my lifetime of covering news and sports is that the best stories often find you.  This is one of those.  My second book, Follow the Dog Home, was released the week of the Super Bowl.  Really, what are the chances that Breanna's card would just so happen to end up in the hands of the one guest who just happened to release a book about animals at the same time?

I brought a signed copy of Follow the Dog Home to Indianapolis with me thinking I might bump into someone who might really want to read such a book.  Little did I know that person would be 11-year-old Breanna.  Here's where it gets tricky.  I don't know Breanna's last name, or her school.  I asked the Super Bowl Host Committee if it could help, but it said without a last name and school, finding her was all but impossible.

As a reporter, I don't accept that.  I left the book with the Host Committee, but I've been left to search for Breanna largely on my own.  Over the last few days, I've spent several hours calling dozens of Indianapolis Elementary schools hoping that someone, somewhere would recognize the girl's self-portrait and artwork.  Most of the people I talk to, and most of them are women, love the story and want to help.  They're sharing the story and pictures with art teachers, principals, liaisons and PR people. 

I thought I had a match on call number four, but it turns out James A. Garfield Elementary School had a different girl from my Super Kid artist.  Boy was that disappointing-- for me and the school secretary.  But I have hope.  We'll find the cute girl, with the unique name spelling, love of animals and a flare for pink.  It's an eyeballs thing.  Someone will have an Aha! moment, recognize her and her drawings, providing the tip that connects the dots.

Kevin at Fairfield Hotel, Indianapolis

So we have a few good stories at work here: the beginning, the middle and the end.  I think that means we're on a journey.  The most meaningful journeys are never the easiest.  And so I search, looking for the little girl who could use a good book and a nice reward, for simply being herself.


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  2. You know, it wasn't just Indy school kids who did those cards. I live outside of Marion County and they were available here for kids to pick up and send in to the host committee. So it could have been from just about anywhere. Good Luck finding her!

    1. Chris,
      Thank you for your note. You're right, all 92 counties participated in the Super Kids welcoming cards program. I have quite an army of helpers in teachers, principals, reporters, secretaries and volunteers. From the information we've uncovered thus far, it's our best guess our mystery artist, Breanna, is from Indianapolis, or Carmel. I'm sure we'll find her, in fact we think we're pretty close right now. But please share the story and her welcoming card with everyone you know. More eyeballs and kind hearts will be the difference. Thanks for all you do and the Hoosier Hospitality. Pax, Kevin.

  3. Kevin,
    I fear you will have a long search as the cards were available all around the state. Thank you for taking away the true meaning the cards held. That little people have such joy about things that are important to them. They made these cards with open hearts and warm wishes that each person traveling here would feel right at home. I am glad you had good memories to take home and share with your "Super Kids". I know that you will find your local Super Kid and she will have her very first First Edition, signed by the author, cover never cracked book. There is no better gift than a book. I hope she enjoys the gift as I can see you have as the giver. Good luck and come back any time. We'd love to have you. My best to you and your family. "Have a Super day!" Flora G.

    1. Thank you for your note Flora. I have a good feeling we're zeroing in on very short list of Breannas in Indianapolis, or Carmel. But until we have it nailed down, please keep the word and effort out on your part. We've made a lot of progress in the past two days and it's largely because of people like you, and what's been a surge of eyeballs and awareness. Eventually we'll find our Super Kid Super Artist, Breanna. And when we do, my fellow authors--10-year-old daughter, my dad and I will include something else in addition to our book. We're putting together a gift basket with New England specialties to return the Hoosier Hospitality. Thanks for all you do. Pax, Kevin.