6 months ago

How faith, Alabamians’ generosity brought about the ‘best Christmas’ for this Birmingham-area family

A story of faith in God and trademark Alabama generosity has led one Birmingham-area family to receive the “best Christmas gift” they ever could have asked for.

Jonathan McKinney explained to Yellowhammer News that the tale began to take shape about two months ago, when he and his wife were at their weekly Sunday life group meeting at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church, where they have been active ever since moving to the area from the Shoals in June of 2014.

On this fateful fall Sunday, the McKinneys shared with the group that their son Jon Andrew, who has special needs, was having trouble with getting up in the middle of the night, which puts him in physical danger because of his condition.

Jon Andrew has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), which is a rare, severe form of epilepsy that begins early in life. McKinney told Yellowhammer News that this presents with his son suffering from multiple seizure types, including grand mal and absence seizures.

Grand mal seizures result in the loss of consciousness, which can lead to serious and even fatal falls. This is why Jon Andrew wears protective headgear during the day. However, nighttime is a different problem, as the boy’s life is at risk anytime he wanders around without protection for his head.

Yet, given his condition, Jon Andrew does not understand this risk and cannot mitigate it himself.

“Jon Andrew is about a 14-month-old developmentally,” McKinney explained. “He’s a 13-year-old trapped in the mind of a baby, really. So, he is non-communicative. We’re still changing diapers and things like that. And that’s not me complaining or anything, that’s just a part of our life.”

And, as babies need cribs and other protection to keep them safe while sleeping, Jon Andrew has special needs of his own for nighttime – specifically, a specialized bed designed to keep him from getting up and wandering in the middle of the night while keeping him comfortable.

However, the necessary type of bed starts at about $10,000 retail, leaving Jon Andrew’s parents feeling “stuck.” They had come up with a temporary mesh-tented bed but knew they needed a long term answer to keep him safe.

Which is why at the Sunday life group meeting this fall, the McKinneys shared their need and prayed earnestly for a solution.

In an immediate reply, their faith payed off. Two members of their life group, Stephen and Anita Jackson, knew the very person for the job: Stephen’s dad, Travis Jackson.

“Little did we know that God would answer our prayer that night,” McKinney said.

Travis has worked in upholstery, woodworking and carpentry the majority of his life. In recent years, and primarily due to his own grandson’s respective special needs, he began to make rehabilitation equipment for other kids, becoming a go-to specialty craftsman for Huntsville Hospital and other hospitals in the state.

When Stephen and Anita shared this need with Travis, he took on the McKinneys project free-of-charge and truly made it his own, just like Jon Andrew was his own.

Travis came over within a week of the life group meeting to meet with the family and discuss their needs. From there, a plan and design for the project was made.

On two sides of the bed, half-inch-thick plexiglass was needed and eventually procured from a company in Pelham. The rest of the materials were gathered by Travis, with Anita’s dad, Tom Davidson, also pitching in some specialty material through his own work.

Through this family’s collective work and Travis’ craftsmanship, what would have cost well over $10,000 only saw the McKinneys paying for materials.

“Mr. Jackson spent, I would say, 20-40 hours over the last couple of months putting this bed together in his shop. And then taking it apart, bringing the pieces to our house and putting it back together again,” McKinney outlined.

He continued, “That was just the thing that was over the top for us: here’s a guy that we did not know – and that did not know us – that because his grandson has special needs and because he’s been touched by other people, other families that have special needs kids, he felt that a part of his personal ministry was to be able to provide us with something like this.”

Just in time to usher in joy for the McKinneys, the bed was completed days before Christmas, with Jon Andrew now able to enjoy newfound bliss during the night. And just like the entire project, the final installation was a family affair, with the McKinneys and multiple members of the Jackson family coming together to help Travis put the pieces in place.

“We got to talk and spend time together and know each other,” McKinney said.

The answer to the McKinneys’ prayers, the Jacksons have built not just a bed, but something that no-one could ever put a price on.

“Jon Andrew is sleeping a lot better, he’s…” McKinney reflected, trailing off as he started beaming thinking of the impact the bed has had. “He outwardly just loves it, smiling and having a big time. He’s really sleeping well, and it’s a huge blessing to our family.”

Not only is it helping potentially save Jon Andrew’s life and aiding his sleep, but the new bed is giving the entire family – the parents and Jon Andrew’s two little brothers – a better night’s sleep and overall peace of mind, too.

“We can sleep a lot better knowing that Jon Andrew is safe,” McKinney advised.

He emphasized that for he and his wife, with their deep faith coming first in life, “this, like everything, was a God thing.”

“This was the best Christmas gift for our family,” McKinney said.

He also stressed that it was not just a function of his and his wife’s own faith but of the Jacksons’, as well. As McKinney detailed, if everyone answered callings and lived out their ministries like Travis, it would feel like Christmas year-round.

“We’re very thankful for Travis and Carolyn Jackson. We’re grateful for Stephen and Anita and their boys. We’re grateful for our life group and our church. We’re grateful for a God who cares about our needs, hears us when we pray, and answers us in His perfect timing,” McKinney said.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

University of North Alabama adopting new tuition plan

The University of North Alabama is switching to a tuition plan that officials say will result in increased costs for some students but not others.

Officials at the school in Florence say they are reducing the total number of student fees from seven to one, and fees will be included in the overall tuition cost.


A statement says students taking 15 hours will see a maximum increase in expenses of 4.1%.

But some could pay less, and costs will not change for others.

School officials say a lag in state funding is a continuing problem.

North Alabama’s vice president for business, Evan Thornton, says the school has deferred maintenance and capital needs totaling more than $160 million.

The school has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,200 students.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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11 hours ago

Nathan Lindsay joining governor’s office from BCA

Another high profile staffer from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is joining Governor Kay Ivey’s senior level team.

The governor on Monday announced that Nathan Lindsay will join her office as director of appointments effective July 1.

This position is charged with spearheading the meticulous work that goes into Ivey meeting her duty to appoint qualified, representative and appropriate people to positions on the state’s various boards and commissions.

A press release from the governor’s office outlined that Lindsay assumes the role with an extensive background in state government and the private sector, which uniquely qualifies him to advise the governor in this capacity.


Most recently, through his work in political and governmental affairs at the BCA, Lindsay interacted with members of the business community throughout the Yellowhammer State, which significantly adds to his ability to identify and select candidates for various appointed posts.

Additionally, Lindsay’s early career included time in then-Governor Bob Riley’s office where he served as aide to the governor from 2006 to 2011. Lindsay also worked in the governor’s communications office as deputy press secretary and advised Riley on education policy.

“Nathan brings to our team a wealth of knowledge that I know will serve the state well,” Ivey said in a statement. “In addition to his expertise and insight, Nathan is a man of character. The men and women of my staff must have a strong work ethic, a depth of knowledge and a heart for public service. Nathan certainly embodies all of these characteristics.”

Lindsay earned his bachelor’s degree from Faulkner University. During his time at Faulkner, he served as SGA president and later, in 2018, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“As governor, I have the important responsibility of appointing qualified individuals to serve on the more than 450 boards and commissions in our state. These men and women must not only be highly-qualified, but they should also be a true reflection of our great state,” Ivey added. “I am confident we will continue to find the best people to serve our state, just as I am certain Nathan will serve my Administration exceptionally well in this position. His experience speaks for itself, and he shares my goal of moving Alabama into a better future.”

This comes weeks after Leah Garner departed BCA to become Ivey’s communications director.

Mark Colson also left BCA to become head of the Alabama Trucking Association recently.

Update 5:55 p.m.:

BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt released a statement commending Ivey on the hire of Lindsay.

“Nathan’s background and expertise in political affairs combined with his political acumen uniquely qualify him to serve the governor and the state in this capacity,” Britt said. “I have no doubt Nathan will do an outstanding job, and I commend Governor Kay Ivey on this excellent addition to her staff.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Alabama listed as one of the top 20 most patriotic states in America

A WalletHub report released Monday revealed Alabama to be on of the top 20 most patriotic states in America.

Ranked 19 overall on the list, with a score of 47.43, Alabama ranked first for the “Civics Education Requirement.”

The report “compared the 50 states across 13 key indicators of patriotism” and “ranges from share of enlisted military population to share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.”


With one as “Most Patriotic” and 25 as “Average,” Alabama received the following rankings:

  • 5th – Average Number of Military Enlistees per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 30th – Active-Duty Military Personnel per 100,000 Civilian Adults
  • 17th – Veterans per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 1st – Civics Education Requirement
  • 12th – Share of Civilian Adult Population in Military Reserves
  • 10th – Share of Adults Who Voted in 2016 Primary Elections

Alabama also ranked eight overall for ‘Military Engagement.’

The report, which compared red states to blue states in terms of patriotism, found that red states were more patriotic. Red states received an average rank of 23.67, while blue states received an average rank of 28.25.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

12 hours ago

Brooks: ‘Really dumb’ for Democrats to elect candidates mainly on ‘skin pigmentation or their chromosomes’

In an interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show”on Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) lamented that many Democrats have become more interested in racial and gender identity politics than the welfare of America.

Coming off of her much maligned comments comparing American immigration facilities to “concentration camps,” host Dale Jackson asked the north Alabama congressman if he believes that Democrats in Congress will allow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to continue to serve as their “de facto face and leader.”

“Yes,” Brooks answered succinctly, promoting a follow-up request for his reasoning.


“Well, she is where she is,” Brooks explained. “She’s got a lot of political power. She’s got a lot of support — surprisingly.”

“There are large, large numbers of American citizens who have bit off on this socialist stuff, who have bit off on this victimization stuff, who have bit off on thinking that the most important criteria in determining whether to elect someone is their skin pigmentation or their chromosomes — which is really dumb, OK,” he continued. “We oughta be electing people based on their character and based on their public policy positions.”

“But, notwithstanding that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the face of the Democratic Party in many different respects, and she does have great influence as evidenced by the presidential candidates on the socialist Democrats’ side who are trying to cultivate her support,” Brooks added. “They want her endorsement.”

Listen, starting at the 8:25 mark:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Democrats hope it’s 2017 all over again, Republicans just want the nightmare to end

In 2017, Roy Moore won a Republican primary run-off against an extremely flawed Luther Strange. Strange wasn’t just a regular candidate — he had the cloud of his appointment, and he was dogged by former Gov. Robert Bentley’s investigation, impeachment and resignation.

Alabama Republicans, outside of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), were reluctant to criticize Roy Moore because they knew doing so would hand the Senate seat to now-Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

But this is different.


State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Montgomery Advertiser that he blamed the GOP establishment in 2017, but still thinks Moore can’t win in 2020.

He stated, “I do not believe, with the numbers I look at, that Roy Moore at the end of the day can get the nomination.”

State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) dismissed Moore when asked about the candidates, saying, “If you look at the candidates, you got Roy Moore. I don’t think we need to say more there.”

Later, he all but endorsed U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) by saying Byrne “would do the best job.”

Secretary of State John Merrill, a potential future Moore opponent, believes Moore has an uphill battle against Jones.

“I think it would be extraordinarily difficult for Judge Moore to be successful in a general election campaign against Senator Jones,” Merrill outlined.

He added, “I also think it would be difficult for Judge Moore to secure the Republican nomination.”

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who endorsed Moore in 2017, has already endorsed State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and is on record saying former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions would be a favorite.

“I do believe that Jeff Sessions would clearly be number one in the poll rankings, based on his having been such a great senator on three principle issues: free enterprise versus socialism; deficit and debt; and border security,” he explained.

Say what you will, but you do not usually see these kinds of pronouncements from Republicans in the middle of a primary.

Democrats hope 2017 is going to be repeated in 2020, but there are many different factors that will matter.

Roy Moore is already fatally flawed as 300,000+ Republicans voters abandoned him in 2017 and stayed home. Many of those voters will vote in the primary in 2020, but will not vote for him.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) expressed a similar sentiment on CSPAN last week.

“I personally don’t think Roy Moore is going to be our nominee, but whoever our nominee is will prevail in November because you’ll have the full complement of Republican voters turning out turning out to vote,” he said.

This is not 2017.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.