“…serve one another humbly in love.” – Galatians 5:13b
Shannon Russell, an Alice Lloyd College alum, has spent the latter part of his life serving others in love, using his son as motivation. When Jaxon was born with a congenital heart defect, Shannon said the Lord laid it upon his heart to do something in Jaxon’s honor, to serve other families being faced with the same harsh realities.
Shannon says that it was his time at Alice Lloyd College that instilled in him the servant’s heart that he now has. It was the college that taught him how important it is to pay it forward and he says that he is forever grateful for the time he spent walking along The Purpose Road. He learned many life lessons here, but perhaps the lesson he remembers the most is that there is always good in the world and always people willing to lend a helping hand.
Approximately a year before he came to Alice Lloyd College, Shannon was near homeless. He was living in the basement of a friend’s house, sleeping in an old coal room on nothing but a mattress lying on the concrete floor. He recalls a busted out window, covered with a garbage bag right above his head and riding a bicycle to work with duct tape holding his shoes together.
Shannon came to Caney Creek looking to play baseball and to earn a character-based education, but he found so much more than that. Shannon found the opportunity to rise above his circumstances. He found the opportunity to chase his dreams and most of all, he found the support system to help him do that.
One of the things that Shannon said he will never forget was looking out from his dorm window on Christmas morning to see that his car was the only car in the parking lot. He was on campus, seemingly alone, for the holidays. However, he did not spend Christmas alone. Head baseball coach and Dean of Students Scott Cornett brought Shannon into his home for Christmas dinner and to exchange gifts and made him part of the family. This is just one of many examples of the Christian love shown here in the valley of Pippa Passes.
Fast forward several years and Shannon has become very successful, serving as a Branch Manager for Stuart C. Irby. Although he has accomplished much, he has never forgotten his roots. He still remembers his time spent at Alice Lloyd College and the lessons that the college taught him. Perhaps this is why when he started his foundation, Lil’ Heart Sluggers, Coach Cornett was the first person contacted to be involved with the organization!
When his son Jaxon was born, Shannon’s joy quickly turned to fear and confusion when he and his wife were told that Jaxon had a congenital heart defect. His first surgery was scheduled for 6 days after his birth and before he was taken into surgery, Shannon and Miranda did the first “normal” baby thing that they had gotten to do since he was born. They took a baseball and an ink pad, and put Jaxon’s tiny handprint on the baseball then put it in a case. Today, that baseball is one of their most prized possessions because it is a reminder of the time when they could not predict their son’s future, but knew that it was in the hands of our Almighty God.
From this small act, Shannon and Miranda developed an idea for Lil’ Heart Sluggers. The foundation supports families who have a child born with a congenital heart defect like Jaxon! Recently, they have even expanded their efforts to serve children diagnosed with cancer. Lil’ Heart Sluggers distributes Lil’ Heart Slugger Packs, which include a baseball, an ink pad, a case and a miniature bat. The packs have been sent all across the country and even all across the world!
Lil’ Heart Slugger Packs are just a small part of the work that Shannon and Miranda are doing for these families. They host a “Day at the Park” with the University of Kentucky baseball team for Lil’ Slugger families and have a balloon release for the Lil’ Sluggers who have gone on to be Angels above the Outfield. The foundation is even looking to expand their efforts into different hospitals.
We are so proud of Shannon and the work he is doing. Shannon often says that he would not be where he is today if it wasn’t for the love, support, and opportunities that he received at Alice Lloyd College. Shannon is an alumnus that exemplifies the characteristics of a servant leader. He serves God first, then provides service to those around him. Shannon currently resides in Richmond, Kentucky with his wife Miranda and his four healthy kiddos – Lacie (8), Abby (7), Jaxon (4), and Asher (one month).