May 19, 2016 7:45AM
As the fifth anniversary of the tornado that devastated Joplin in 2011 approaches, Kendall Gammon, assistant to the president at Pittsburg State University and a former NFL long snapper, has launched an online project that both honors the memory of one of the victims of that tornado and offers individuals across the country the opportunity to pay tribute to people who have touched their lives.
The project is called The Will Wall, in honor of Will Norton, who was driving home from his high school graduation when the tornado struck. Norton was one of 158 people killed in the disaster.
Gammon said the idea for the project came to him after Will’s parents, Mark and Trish Norton, long-time friends and former neighbors of Gammon’s, invited him to visit their son’s room following the celebration of Will’s life.
“When I walked in, the number 83 was painted in an elegant graffiti fashion on the wall,” Gammon said, “and the display included a game ball I had given Will when they attended a Chiefs game years earlier.”
Gammon said he had not considered giving the game ball to Will such a significant thing when he gave it to him.
“It was such a small thing to give a game ball to a fan,” Gammon said. “It was something I did at nearly every game during my NFL career. I had forgotten about it, but it clearly impacted Will.”
Gammon said visiting Will’s room and seeing the impact that a small gesture had made got him to thinking about how people can and do affect all of our lives every day.
“When we think about it, we have all had people do things for us that have made a difference or changed our lives for the better,” Gammon said. “I wanted to create a simple way to just say ‘Thank You’ to those people.”
The vehicle Gammon has created to do that is called The Will Wall, www.thewillwall.com. The website, which has just gone live, allows users to record a video to thank those people who have made a difference in the poster’s life.
“You can record a video to thank a past teacher, a parent, family or friends and then send them a link to show them they matter to you,” Gammon said.
The first videos have just been posted to The Will Wall, but Gammon expects the list to grow rapidly. He said he hopes that as visitors to The Will Wall see the tributes it will inspire them to “step up and give a personal ‘game ball’ to someone who has made a difference in their lives.”
Below: Kendall Gammon, assistant to the president and former NFL long snapper, talks about the meaning of presenting the game ball at PSU's 2016 Apple Day Convocation in March.