The Midwest Genealogy Center, located off Lee’s Summit Road near the entrance to Drumm Farm Golf Club, is a hidden gem.
But it’s also the largest family research facility in the United States.
Last year, visitors from 48 states and countless countries walked the halls of the 52,000-square foot, two-story building, in search of information on their family history.
While it has been a valuable resource for history lovers, it was the site of a friendly scavenger hunt Wednesday afternoon as four football players from Truman, Van Horn and William Chrisman high schools teamed with Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks Alex Smith, Tyler Bray and Joel Stave in a unique game that brought out the best in each of the youngsters and their team captains.
Each team – with Smith leading Van Horn, Stave William Chrisman and Bray Truman – was assigned a variety of tasks that took them throughout the building searching for family information about Chiefs players past and present as part of the Tell Me A Story competition. It also piqued their interest in their own family origins.
Smith and the Falcons claimed a victory as Bray and Stave’s teams sprinted to the finish line – with the Patriots edging their rivals from Chrisman.
As his two teammates and their players walked into the conference room, Smith quipped, “Silver, yeah, that’s good too.”
It cracked everyone up, even his teammates and their respective teams.
When Midwest Genealogy Center mugs were passed out to all team members, the highly competitive Smith added, “Participation prizes?”
Following the scavenger hunt, the players interviewed each Chiefs player on their team with a set of prepared questions. Bray and Stave were done with the taping in a few minutes.
Smith and the Falcons took more than a half hour as the veteran quarterback gave the youngsters a detailed look into his rich family and sports history.
“You doing a combine interview?” Bray asked Smith after the session with his team.
Smith grinned and answered, “Just keeping it real.”
The scavenger hunt, and the inclusion of players from the three Independence high schools, was the brainchild of the Chiefs organization.
“They came to us, and we were thrilled,” said genealogy center manager Cheryl Lang, who served as hostess.
She opened the session with an intriguing question: “Do you know who you are?”
Lang then explained the art of seeking out your family history, and the players and their Chiefs captains nodded in agreement.
“I’m kind of a mutt,” Smith said, when asked about his family. “My folks have done a lot of research into our family. I think I’m going to have to start doing a little bit of research, too.”
When Lang asked the players if they had library cards, as the genealogy center is part of the Mid-Continent Public Library system, Stave’s hand reached skyward.
“I’m going to use it to do some research,” Stave said. “You never really know what to expect when you go out and make an appearance, but today was fun and informative. We all had a great time.”
Added Bray, “We’re just normal guys who get up, put our pants on one leg at a time, eat some breakfast and go to work – and it’s important to let the guys here today know that. We’re just like them, only a little bit older.”
And, he could have added, wiser, after being introduced to the genealogy center.
“It’s really cool to not just meet the Chiefs quarterbacks, but really get the opportunity to talk with them and find out what they think about things,” said Chrisman senior quarterback James Bailey, The Examiner’s 2016 Player of the Year.
“Football is so special to me and all the players who were here today, and we found out that the Chiefs quarterbacks are men of high character who really care about a group of kids like us. To have them interact with us and make us feel like we’re special is something we’ll remember the rest of our lives.”
It was also special for Independence School District superintendent Dale Herl and the school’s respective coaches and activities directors.
“It’s extra special for me because my son is here with his Chrisman teammates,” said Herl, whose son Dawson is a junior-to-be quarterback for the Bears. “It’s great that the Chiefs players are making the high school players feel so special.”
First-year Van Horn football coach William Harris was beaming from ear to ear as he watched his youngsters bond with Smith.
“Special? Oh yes, this is special – for them and for our school,” Harris said. “We didn’t tell them too much about what was happening today and I can’t wait to talk with them on the way back to school to see what they thought about everything that happened.”
Matt Perry, the Bears new head football coach, added, “The best thing about this is that the players are finding out that the Chiefs are real people. We’ve all been impressed with the way the Chiefs have interacted with the high school players.”
When the event wrapped up, all participants were given a pamphlet with information on the genealogy center.
“I’m going to use this to find out about my family history,” Bailey said, as he walked to the parking lot. “Today, wow, today was awesome!”
-- The Midwest Genealogy Center, 3440 South Lee's Summit Road, is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is 816-252-7228.