let the memory fade
"If this just saves one child
..it will all
be worth it.
Its been stated a thousand times, usually as rhetoric
with no substance. I know a substantive story where one
child was saved, at a cost most would not be willing to
A bit over 19 years ago, a young 24-year old man had
everything going for him. His career had taken off, he
had a loving wife and three children and his future was
mapped out in the National Football League.
On June 29, 1983 that all changed with three childrens
cries for help. At Chennault Park in Monroe, Louisiana
this young NFL athlete answered a call to be extraordinary.
Joe Delaney had beaten all the odds for his entire life.
Discouraged by his father to pursue his dreams of playing
football, Joe went on to star at the small college of
Northwestern State University. He was noticed by the Kansas
City Chiefs and selected in the second round of the 1981
He rewarded the Chiefs franchise, then at a lowly state
throughout the league, with a record setting performance.
He gained over 1,100 yards, played in the Pro Bowl, and
was named the team MVP. In 1982, the strike-shortened
season interrupted what was surely to be Delaneys
second season of many successful campaigns in the NFL.
The strike was settled and the Chiefs held hope for 1983,
with plans for Delaney to return as the teams star
running back. Then fate stepped in.
On that fateful June day in 1983, much of the hope for
the Chiefs as a team was squelched. At the same time,
much of the hope for mankind was lifted up, squarely on
the shoulders of Joe Delaney. The scenario began when
three kids had wandered into a pond and had
gotten themselves into a life-threatening situation.
The children were screaming for help. Joe was at that
park and became an extraordinary hero in the blink of
an eye. Reports are that Joe instructed others nearby
to call for help, while he acted. You see Joe Delaney
could not swim, but he knew without his intervention these
children would surely perish in that pond of water in
Joe waded into the water and managed to get one of the
boys to the bank of the body of water. That child was
saved. Then as extraordinary heroes do, Joe went back
for the other two children. He would never return from
the water alive. The other two children he attempted to
save also perished on this June day in 1983.
The term hero was properly redefined last September after
being over used for trivial accomplishments for many years.
This was not a trivial feat that Joe Delaney performed.
He gave his life in an attempt to save three children
that he did not know.
His selfless act produced more results than he could
have ever delivered on any football field. He managed
to save one childs life at an extraordinary cost.
His three children would grow up without a father and
his young wife would be widowed. In this instance Joe
Delaneys sacrifice saved one child and in his selfless
thought process, it was worth it.
He was and is a hero and should not have been forgotten.
But for many years thats exactly what happened.
Sure, there were television cameras and reporters covering
the event for a few days in 1983. President Ronald Reagan
recognized the sacrifice and awarded Joe the Presidential
Citizens Medal in July of 1983. Chiefs founder Lamar
Hunt set aside Delaneys jersey No. 37 that year.
A member of the Kansas City Chiefs will never again wear
But too many folks in the Chiefs organization forgot.
His number is not in the Chiefs Ring of Honor
that surrounds Arrowhead Stadium.
And now two generations of Chiefs fans know little
of the small running back with the huge heart and the
blazing speed. When you gaze upon the ring of honor that
surrounds Arrowhead Stadium, you should see the raised
black letters stating [37 Joe Delaney.] But still you
dont, and thats a shame. Joe Delaney deserves
that honor for his play with the team even though his
time with the Chiefs was cut short due to his heroic act
An organization of die-hard Chiefs fans emerged two years
ago to honor the memory of Joe Delaney. The foundation
is determined not to allow the budding Chiefs superstar,
and more than that, a heroic mans memory, to fade
away. That group has formed a non-profit organization
called 37 Forever http://www.37forever.org.
This group has an upcoming golf tournament planned for
Friday, Sept 27th at 10:00 AM, at Staley Farms in North
KC. The group is also planning a banquet on the following
Saturday, September 28th at the banquet facility at www.adamspointgolfclub.com.
According to the group the proceeds from these events
are set up to sponsor water safety classes and swimming
lessons for at risk youth in the Kansas City area. There
are a variety of options for the golf tournament on Friday
and the cost for the banquet on Saturday is $50. Check
out the 37 Forever web site to see the price options for
the Friday golf tourney.
The group will also be tailgating before the
home game against the Dolphins on Sept. 29th.
Many of the foundation are Chiefs fans from outside
of Kansas City and are asking for support from local folks
who believe that all children in the Kansas City community
deserve to be taught water safety. If you wish to help,
you can drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a worthy cause, brought about by a hero who once
played for the Kansas City Chiefs. Joe Delaneys
memory may not yet be in the Ring of Honor of Arrowhead
Stadium, but thanks to the 37 Forever Foundation it can
be realized for youths by instruction in water safety.
And with some hard work and some luck, a new generation
of KC Chiefs fans can remember a father, a husband, a
hero and a former Kansas City Chief, number 37 Joe Delaney.
(CK Rairden can be reached by email at email@example.com)