While lying in his hospital bed six years ago after a horrible accident that happened when rehearsing a stunt, Dan Meers reflected on how a doctor explained he was lucky to be alive and also not paralyzed.
He says he realized even more the importance of how you to spend each day – his daily coin – making relationships a priority.
Meers, better known – and seen – as longtime Chiefs mascot KC Wolf, says the three things that kept him going through nine days in the hospital and six months of rehabilitation were faith, family and friends – all of which come from relationships, not things.
Speaking at Wednesday morning's annual Independence Mayor's Prayer Breakfast at the Community of Christ Laurel Club, Meers said he doesn't consider himself lucky to have survived the accident, even with several broken bones and some pain he continues to live with.
“I believe I'm blessed,” he said. “The fact I get to tell my story makes me grateful.”
And if he tears up while recounting the accident, that's OK, too.
“If your eyes don't water, then your head will swell,” he said jokingly.
The scheduled stunt for that November 2013 Chiefs home game had been for KC Wolf to come in on a zip line, starting from the top of the stadium, but with the element of a short bungee cord for more dramatic effect.
“It was going to be one of the greatest mascot entrances ever,” Meers said.
Instead, during rehearsal the day before, a glitch caused the bungee cord to give about 70 feet of slack instead of just 20, sending Meers crashing into the upper deck seats. Then, as he tried to free his injured body, cord pulled him back up and he continued along the zip line before workers freed him.
In all, Mears suffered seven broken ribs and a collapsed lung on one side, a broken vertebrae and a broken tailbone.
He returned to work the next season, and even if some of the stunts have been modified, KC Wolf remains as goofy as ever in his 30th season and Meers has become in demand as a humorous motivational speaker.
“As you get older, you realize that how you choose to spend your coin is more important,” he said, adding that he chalks up the accident as part of God's plan for him.
“God authors your life, you're like a co-author,” he said. “You get to decide whether to end each day with a period, a question mark or an exclamation point.
Meers played Truman Tiger at the University of Missouri, then started his professional career with a brief stint as the St. Louis Cardinals' Fredbird before the Chiefs invited him to play KC Wolf and he decided he looked “better in gray fur than red feathers.” In 2006 he became the first NFL mascot inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame.
KC Wolf's job is to bring joy and fun to others even beyond the games – “I've been the best man at seven or eight weddings where I didn't even know the groom,” he joked – and makes about 350 appearances per year.
Meers said his biggest thrills don't come from the games, but rather from speaking to and helping others. Proceeds from the book he compiled during his recovery, “Wolves Can't Fly,” go toward various charities.
He closed his address with a few pictures of overseas mission trips he made, including after the accident. His favorite photo, he said, is the one shot from behind, as KC Wolf holds of the hands of two young girls while they're walking.
If at his funeral, he said, “I am loved and they know I loved people, I'm good with that.
“I want my life to make an impact.”
Mayor Eileen Weir also recognized the first three recipients of the Mayor's Coin, given to those show exemplary acts of kindness in the community. Coins went to:
• Sanitation worker Bill Shelby for helping an elderly woman on his route with her trashcan each week after he witnessed her fall one time and stayed until an ambulance arrived.
• Ross Wiley for spreading love of faith through his years of daily walks in the community.
• Kansas City teen Tyrea Pryor and Independence Police Officer Joe Holt, who treated Pryor and Pryor's mother to dinner after he witnessed Pryor shield an elderly woman from the pouring rain as he shuffled to her car outside a grocery store. Holt snapped a photo of the moment, then tracked down Pryor to show his appreciation.