Laurence “Marlins Man” Leavy brought his pay-it-forward message of kindness, respect and hard work to Trailwood Elementary School in Overland Park Thursday after he was inspired by a Trailwood dad’s tale of generosity.
Randy Fikki, dad of a second-grader at Trailwood, was driving near 103rd Street and State Line Road in late November. It was 35 degrees out, and a woman standing at the roadside with two small, coatless children “just didn’t look right,” Fikki said to himself. So he stopped and asked if she needed help.
She said she had run out of gas, so he took her to get some. When they got to the car, Fikki said, he realized from its contents — blankets and containers of food — that the family had been living there.
Fikki asked if the girls needed coats, and the mom demurred, saying they had blankets.
But Fikki talked her into letting him take the family to a nearby store, where he bought the children coats, gloves and socks before going on his way.
“I’d want someone to do that for me,” Fikki said.
“I got home feeling good about what happened, and I thought maybe I could inspire someone else to stop the next time they see something like that and not think someone is trying to scam them. I put a post about it up on Facebook, and friends really liked it and shared it, and pretty soon I had hundreds and thousands of shares and likes.
“It was inspirational to see what came out of one little act, reading stories about others who do great things. So I started a Facebook group called ‘Step Into Action, Do Something.’ It’s just been incredible, the outpouring of love.”
The group now has more than 5,000 members.
“Then I got an email from the Marlins Man, who said ‘I’d love to meet you,’ ” Fikki said. “He offered to come here and speak at any school I chose. My daughter goes to Trailwood, and I wanted to reach kids while they’re young.”
Leavy, who lives in the Miami area, crammed in several other appearances around town this week, speaking at James Lewis Elementary School in Blue Springs, and visiting Great Plains SPCA, among other things.
The successful labor attorney has parlayed the notoriety that came from wearing bright-orange Miami Marlins gear in the seats directly behind home plate — and thus in television shots — at the last two World Series in which the Royals played into a kind of fame.
As he told the all-school assembly at Trailwood on Thursday, Leavy wasn’t always wealthy enough to buy the best seats in the house at hundreds of sporting events and even invite strangers to join him. He was homeless for about a month after he graduated from law school and before he began his practice, he said.
“I showered by jumping into people’s pools,” he said. “I begged people for money to eat and put gas in my car. If I could do that — to go from homeless to being a millionaire many times over — you could do that, too.”
Leavy told the students they would have to study hard, sacrifice and avoid getting hooked on drugs or alcohol if wanted to succeed in life.
He also urged them to recognize the “real heroes” all around them — their parents, teachers, law-enforcement officers, firemen and emergency responders.
“Every day they sacrifice themselves to protect you,” Leavy said. “They don’t make a whole lot of money, but they do this because they care. You can pay them back, too.”
Grades of C and D “don’t make them happy,” Leavy said. “They want to see Bs and As. … Help your brother and sister. Take out the garbage. Give the dog a bath.”
Leavy explained his pay-it-forward philosophy of taking total strangers to games with him around the country. He said he had attended 27 Super Bowls, 80 NBA finals games and dozens of World Series games before attracting wide attention at the 2014 World Series in Kansas City.
When he realized “people were looking at me,” he said, he felt a responsibility to use that notoriety for good. So he began inviting strangers to sit with him in the good seats, refusing to accept payment except in the form of good deeds.
“They have to do something good for a total stranger and send me a report,” Leavy said. “When you are good, when you pay it forward, good things happen to you. It’s called karma. And when you are bad, bad things happen to you.”
Trailwood Principal Greg Lawrence said he appreciated Leavy’s message and thought the students did, too.
“It thought it was a terrific message,” Lawrence said. “They know who the Marlins Man is because of the Royals.”
Fifth-grader Caleb Wright was impressed by Leavy’s tale of having risen from homelessness to wealth and generosity.
“I was surprised by that,” the 10-year-old said. “I thought he always had money. His story was really cool.”
Video: Marlins Man was in Kansas City in October for the MLB playoffs: