On the one-year anniversary of the severe accident involving their daughter, Maggie, and the efforts of all the professionals that made her recovery possible, Matt and Beth McQuillen stopped by the Jones County Courthouse March 18 and 19 to thank local law enforcement with breakfast and lunch meals.
Jones County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Eckhardt said it wasn’t something he’d ever seen before and provided area law enforcement with quite a morale boost as members of the Jones County Sheriff’s Office and police departments stopped in as time allowed for a breakfast or lunch meal.
“I’ve been here for over 20 years, nobody has ever done anything like this for us,” he said. “It’s pretty rare, even after a tragic event like these guys had endured that somebody will come back and thank the personnel that were involved.”
Eckhardt said that’s more a product of life getting in the way and busy schedules than anything else. So why did the McQuillens want to go through the effort to do it?
“It all matters. We don’t have the opportunity to come in and thank them all the time,” Matt said.
“Law enforcement was sort of the base of the pyramid, and everything sort of builds from there,” Beth said.
As the year anniversary approached, the family has thanked all the first responders in their own way.
Though the gesture may have seemed small, it made a big impact.
“With the current climate…towards law enforcement…it really drags down the staff, and it’s hard for them to keep a good attitude. Even though this may be a little thing to someone it doesn’t affect, it’s a huge thing for morale,” Eckhardt said.
The size of the impact it had on law enforcement came as a surprise to the McQuillens.
“The impact that Brian described was an unintended, great beneficial consequence. It’s gratifying to know that it meant even more than we expected it to mean. That’s why grace matters,” Matt said.
In the aftermath of the accident, the couple said the comments, well wishes and various movements, like the Ribbons for Maggie and #Beastmode challenges were of great comfort as Maggie went through the recovery process.
“It was constant reassurance that things were going to be OK,” Matt said of the impact the outpouring of support had and that the network of support has been a constant over the past 12 months.
Especially given the overlap with COVID, when people couldn’t come and visit, Beth said just being able to track the support via social media was uplifting for the family.
“That was our form of communication. It was very beneficial,” she said.
Generally, the McQuillens aren’t ones to dwell, but this anniversary seemed like one worth marking and celebrating the work of the medical professionals at the University of Iowa and elsewhere that made the anniversary possible.
“Maggie’s story validates what they do,” Matt said. “You can put in the work, you aren’t always guaranteed the result. So, when it works, you’ve got to celebrate.”