For the past eight years the Kansas City Chiefs have teamed up with McDonald’s restaurants across the region for Red Friday, selling flags to benefit Ronald McDonald House.
More than 135 McDonald’s restaurants from Kansas City to Topeka and St. Joseph participated in the event Friday, Sept. 9.
This was my eighth year to have the privilege of selling the Kansas City Chiefs Kingdom flags at the Paola McDonald’s.
Joining me for year eight were: Paola McDonald’s head maintenance manager David Inlow, Miami County Sheriff Frank Kelly, Paola fire fighter Bill Sanders and University of Kansas secondary education major Malia Toomay.
We had an absolute blast meeting all of the Kansas City Chiefs fans. Some of the fans were waiting for us when McDonald’s opened at 5 a.m.
The first year, the Paola McDonald’s received 250 flags, and we were sold out by 8 a.m. Other stores began sending us their flags to sell.
After that first year, the Paola store was sent 500 flags. The flag made following the Super Bowl Championship sold out by 8:30 a.m.
We were all astonished to hear the Paola McDonald’s, the store selling most Kansas City Chiefs flags, was sent 1,500 this year.
The Kansas City Chiefs and McDonald’s knew what they were doing. People were buying 10, 15 and 20 at a time.
We had quite a system to keep up with those kinds of sales numbers. Inlow, Kelly, Sanders and Toomay sold the flags and collected the money. My job was to make change quickly on the fly and replenish our flag supply.
It was a steady stream of cars and trucks for three hours. By 8 a.m., we had sold more than 1,400 of the 1,500 flags. The remainder were sold through the drive-through which ran out by 11 a.m.
More than $7,500 was raised by area Chiefs fans at the Paola McDonald’s this year, benefiting the Ronald McDonald House.
Sheriff Kelly is from Philadelphia where Ronald McDonald House started in October of 1974. For more than 48 years, the Ronald McDonald House has served millions of sick children and their families in their time of need.
The 2020 Kansas City Chiefs flag honored the Super Bowl champions. Flag sales that year raised more than $1 million for the Ronald McDonald House. Since its inception, Red Flag Friday has raised more than $3.7 million for the Ronald McDonald House.
The Paola Rat Pack Student section recognized me with a “Gene Morris Night” theme during the Paola Lady Panther volleyball match against Tonganoxie on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
Students arrived to the Rat Pack section dressed up like me with their St. Louis Cardinals baseball caps, sports coats and cameras.
Students had me join them in the front row for pictures. I had a smile on my face all evening. It was truly an honor. I was humbled to receive the appreciation and attention from them.
I was tipped off about the “Gene Morris Night” on Monday evening, so I had a few surprises for the Rat Pack.
I had three outfits ready for the evening. I started off with tan jacket, black shirt, slacks and a black derby hat. At the end of the first set, I unbuttoned the black shirt to reveal a St. Louis jersey and replaced the derby with a Cardinals baseball cap.
Between the second and third sets, I took off the jersey to reveal a USA shirt and replaced the cap with a United States Navy ball cap that belonged to my father, Franklin, who served in the Navy straight out of high school from 1952 to 1956.
At the end of the evening, I put the jacket back on over the USA shirt and sported the Cardinals ball cap to show off parts of each outfit change.
Carter Kauk was in a league of his own for “Gene Morris Night,” wearing a sport coat and a St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap.
Bailey Gagnebin was also decked out in style, I might add, wearing a gray sport coat with a camera wrapped around her neck.
I stayed following the match to pose for pictures with several of the students and their families.
Celebrating 31 years here at The Miami County Republic earlier this month, the evening meant more to me than the students will ever know.
Every time a student says “hello Gene,” I know I have the greatest job in the world. They keep me young at heart. I am right where the Lord needs me to be.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you all very much. You are family to me.