KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jennifer Pugh-Gambill wore her red Kansas City Chiefs shirt Thursday because she’ll be in her work uniform all day Friday.
Born and raised in Independence, Missouri, the mother of two has always been a Chiefs fan, but it solidified when she visited the home of the football team’s legendary linebacker Derrick Thomas as a child.
“He sat us down and gave us Pepsi and signed football cards and had about a 20-minute conversation,” she recalled. “It was the greatest thing, we were like we will love this team forever.”
Pugh-Gambill never realized how much she’d love the team and its fans until tragedy struck this summer.
Now living in Clinton, Missouri, Pugh-Gambill’s 9-year-old son, Sebastian Gambill, became unresponsive one night in June.
She rushed him to the local hospital, where they flew him to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
The boy had gone into cardiac arrest because of a diabetic attack. He had never shown signs of having type 1 diabetes previously. Sebastian lost some motor skills because of the cardiac arrest.
He’s been at the hospital ever since that summer day. He’s now doing occupational therapy and physical rehabilitation to regain the ability to walk and eat solid foods.
“Seeing improvements every day,” Pugh-Gambill said, adding he'll probably be in the hospital another month.
In the meantime, Pugh-Gambill has lived in the Ronald McDonald House about five blocks from Children’s Mercy Hospital. The charity provides a free place to stay for families while their children are in the hospital.
“Anything you could possibly need, toiletries, everything is provided so you don’t have to worry about anything,” Pugh-Gambill explained.
On Red Friday, the Chiefs sell flags for $5 with proceeds from the sales going to Ronald McDonald House charities. In the past seven years, the organization has raised $2.8 million from flag sales.
“Only on Red Friday can you make a million-dollar difference $5 at a time. What that does is it allows us to serve families during a pandemic. It allows us to rent hotel rooms because we’ve had to do things differently to keep everyone safe. We did not turn anyone away. We keep serving families because Kansas City keeps serving us and the Chiefs keep serving us,” explained Tami Greenberg, the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City.
That is why Pugh-Gambill didn’t realize how much she loved the Chiefs and its fans until she benefited firsthand from their generosity.
“Every flag they [fans] buy is going to help a family, so they don’t realize how much it really is appreciated,” she said while holding back tears.
Flags are available to purchase at more than 135 McDonald’s restaurants in the greater Kansas City and St. Joseph, Missouri, area and at Hy-Vee grocery stores in the Kansas City metropolitan area. You can also purchase a flag online through the Chiefs store.
Flags cost $10 online (which includes shipping) and $5 in person.