When the phone rang, Kristen Patterson of North Pole, Alaska, certainly wasn’t expecting the person on the other end to be a state trooper. She also didn’t expect him to ask if she’d written a letter to Peyton Manning, star quarterback of the Denver Broncos. But she had written that letter, and the phone call she received had just opened the door to a special moment Kristen and her husband, Army Sergeant Ryan Patterson, would never forget.
Months before, Kristen had drafted a message to Manning in order to let him know her husband was his biggest fan. Ryan would set his alarm to get up in the wee hours while in Afghanistan so he wouldn’t miss any of Manning’s games. He also got stationed in Colorado just so he could attend Broncos games when he was in the country. Knowing that Ryan was going to be home for a Broncos home game, Kristen wrote hoping Manning would come and say hello.
There was just one little problem with Kristen’s letter: She forgot to mention how Manning could get in touch with them.
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Manning did the thoughtful thing and asked the Broncos’ public relations office to find the Pattersons. Soon after Kristen sent the letter, however, the family was transferred to Fort Wainwright in North Pole, Alaska.
That didn’t stop the Broncos’ dauntless PR folks, however. They worked for three months to track down the Pattersons, culminating in the Alaska state trooper calling Kristen personally.
Kristen kept her plans a secret from Ryan. When they flew to Cincinnati over the holidays — with tickets for the Broncos–Bengals game in hand — Kristen even convinced Ryan they were just stopping to meet a friend. Instead, Ryan began to suspect that something was up when he found himself at the Broncos’ team hotel.
Imagine his surprise when they were taken up to a private conference room, where Peyton Manning himself arrived to greet Ryan. They chatted for a few minutes. Manning thanked Ryan for his service and played with the Pattersons’ infant daughter. Ryan had nothing but praise for his wife, who made it possible for him to spend time with the one person on Earth he most wanted to meet. Peyton Manning is well-known for his generosity toward his fans, but he’s not the only NFL star to reach out like this.