Tim McKinney was my friend.
Tim lost an arm from the elbow down at a young age, yet still played Little League and Babe Ruth baseball. He was amazing to watch, tucking his glove under what remained of his arm while he threw, then quickly slipping his hand back into the glove to field. He even pitched some, but never gave in to his disability. No, he just played, and loved playing.
That wasn’t why he was my friend, however.
Tim went into radio work, sharing his love for the Cincinnati Reds by serving as co-host for the Redlegs Radio Report, a Saturday morning talk show on ESPN radio in Tim’s (and my) hometown of Bowling Green.
While I’m a lifelong Reds fan, that wasn’t why he was my friend, either.
Tim loved softball, and was an assistant coach for the Warren East girls’ softball team for several years. His nephew was, and is, the head coach, and Tim was a fixture at the Raiders’ games, always full of encouragement for “his” girls.
But, even that wasn’t why Tim was my friend.
Tim McKinney fought cancer seven times in his adult life. He won six of those battles, and always stayed himself during his fights. But the seventh time he contracted that awful disease, it was just too much. He fought, making numerous trips to hospitals, going through chemo and radiation again, but in the end, cancer took his life.
But it didn’t beat him. The last two years Tim McKinney lived, he poured himself into a project designed to bring smiles to other cancer patients, especially the little ones in the Kosair Children’s Hospitals.
He began the “Hats For Tim” campaign in 2014. The concept was simple: collect hats of all kinds that he could distribute to the patients fighting cancer. He told me back then that hats always made him laugh (he was wearing a black, three-cornered Pirate hat that day at the radio station!), and it was his hope that the recipients of those hats would laugh – and be a little less self-conscious about the loss of hair caused by chemo.
I don’t know how many hats Tim collected that first year, or the second. I do know he received hats from all over the country, and some UK friends of mine were wonderful donors. Tom Leach, Maria Montgomery, Larry Vaught, Dick Gabriel, Mark Buerger, Anthony White, Curtis Burch, Nerlens Noel, Darius Miller — the list is too long for me to remember all, but those wonderful people sent autographed caps and hats to Tim.
There’s no way to know how many kids smiled at the sometimes sane, sometimes silly, sometimes downright crazy headwear they received from Tim McKinney. It was the hat, sure, but it was also the fact that Tim knew what it was like to have cancer. He’d been there, many times, and he know how to make them laugh.
And that is why Tim McKinney was my friend. He cared more about other people than himself, and in doing so, he cut a swath a mile wide during his short 52 years on this earth.
His spirit, and mission, lives on since the wonderful staff at Redlegs Radio Report vowed to continue the “Hats For Tim” project. This year marks the third year, and the goal is the same: collect hats and caps for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
I appreciate the fact that my friend, Larry Vaught, allowed me a platform to ask for donations on behalf of Redlegs Radio Report and my friend, Tim. If you are interested in donating, this year’s campaign is accepting hats or gift cards, but the recipients will be the same.
Thank you, Larry, and thank you Tim.
“Hats for Tim” C/O Redlegs Radio Report, 1823 McIntosh, Suite #107, Bowling Green, Ky 42104