Two miracles, 42 years apart: Kevin Curnutt’s story is now a book; Hayden Skaggs’ story is just unfolding

If you believe in miracles, you can believe, like I do, that Hayden Skaggs and Kevin Curnutt are living, breathing, inspiring miracles.

Hayden, 20 years old, has been one for only a matter of days, after surviving a horrific accident while driving home to North Texas from Eureka College in Illinois. He was on his way to watch his older sister Dana graduate from nursing school at UT-Arlington and, later, his youngest sibling Libby graduate from high school in Mansfield.

Kevin, 55 years old, has been a living miracle since Super Bowl Sunday in 1981, when he was shot through the head at age 13 by a reclusive aerospace engineer. The teen and his close friend Trey Shelton were riding dirt bikes on the Sheltons’ property in South Arlington, and their attacker decided he’d had enough of the kids’ noise. Trey died instantly after the sniper hit him twice with a 12-gauge shotgun; Kevin was left a quadriplegic. The shooter was gunned down by police after he fired at them.


If you saw the photo his father Jeremy shared on Facebook of what’s left of the car after Wednesday’s accident, you’d have no doubt of Hayden‘s being a bona fide miracle. After being transported by helicopter to a hospital in St. Louis as a Level 1 trauma patient, he was found to have a subdural hematoma (brain bleed) and multiple fractures including his left tibia, both femurs, left wrist, pelvis on both sides, and facial bones/sinus.

Hayden’s brain bleeding had subsided enough for doctors to perform the first of his surgeries Thursday afternoon, but Saturday morning’s scheduled procedure on his right femur was postponed a day because the surgeon didn’t have his full team on hand.

There’s a pretty awesome reason why Hayden and his family — parents Jeremy and Laurie, siblings Jarrett, Dana, and Libby — are so special to so many: Jeremy is the beloved pastor at our church in southwest Arlington, The Welcome Table Christian Church, which I’ve attended since November 2021.

Hayden and his dad, Jeremy, the pastor at The Welcome Table Christian Church in Arlington, posed for a photo in Salzburg, Austria, during last summer’s sabbatical trip to Europe. (Photo courtesy of the Skaggs family)

It was just this past Sunday when Jeremy, who’s been the congregation’s leader since 2015, began his sermon with the words “I love you.” Because his words always focus genuinely and passionately on humanity, sensitivity, empathy, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, benevolence, inclusivity, and the other humane traits Jeremy embodies and espouses, it didn’t strike me as unusual for him to open with such sincere words.

But 10 minutes later, it became clear why he had: Jeremy told us he’ll be leaving our church for a new pastoral calling in Jeffersonville, Indiana, a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky, after his last service with us June 25.

With three of the four Skaggs children scattered across locales much farther north, Jeremy and Laurie made the difficult decision to head that direction. Not only does Jeremy already have his new pastorship — Laurie, a high school teacher in Mansfield, has a middle-school position lined up, they’ve sold their home in Mansfield, and they’ve bought a new one in Jeffersonville.

Hayden at Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois. (Photo courtesy of the Skaggs family)

For Jeremy and Laurie, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of tough decisions and hard work preparing for the changes ahead. And now with Hayden’s accident, their main focus will be on him for the foreseeable future. He’ll remain in the hospital for a while, but if his first few days in captivity are any indication, the multitude of prayers and support surrounding Hayden and his family has already been a huge lift in helping kick off his healing process and lengthy recovery, as well as boosting his family’s hope and strength.

Jeremy has been posting regular updates on Facebook, saying Hayden has mostly been in good spirits, even joking around and “talking a mile a minute.” He has no memory of the accident, which is not surprising. His dad says that when Hayden goes home, he’ll be in a wheelchair and will be non-weight-bearing on his legs for “a long, long time.”

The family will take any and all prayers y’all can supply for as long as you can supply them. Also, here is a link to a GoFundMe set up by one of our church members to help the Skaggs family with medical and travel expenses if you are able to contribute. Thank you.


After 15 years of unsuccessful therapy in hopes of regaining the use of his arms and legs, Kevin Curnutt suffered through a long period of deep despair and thought about taking his life. But as he writes in his new book with co-author Tim Madigan, a longtime friend and former newspaper colleague of mine at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and before that The Odessa American, Kevin “returned from the darkness” by looking inward for healing and turning to spiritual reading, contemplation, and meditation. He’s made it his life’s mission to share his story and message in hopes of helping others who find themselves in seemingly hopeless valleys.

“I had been thrust, most unwillingly, into an exploration of the darkness of the world and of my soul,” Kevin says in From Horror to Transcendence: How I Lost Everything in the Material World, Then Found Everything Within. “In that exploration, I had finally come to terms with my situation and my soul, and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace because of it.”

I attended a book launch Friday night at J. Gilligan’s, a popular longtime hangout in downtown Arlington, where I bought one of the books and briefly met Kevin. He received plenty of applause as he and Tim spoke to the overflow crowd for almost 30 minutes about the book and Kevin’s remarkable story of courage, strength, and perseverance. It’s only 179 pages and I’m just getting started. Tim’s written a couple of other great books, including one about his friendship with Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) and another about the Tulsa race riots.

It was wonderful to see Kevin having such a great time Friday night, which included a concert by Tim and his rock ‘n’ roll cover band, the Love Starved Dogs. It’s the second time I’ve seen them, and they’re fantastic.

The appreciative attendees included the retired officers who responded to the shooting Jan. 25, 1981, and helped save Kevin’s life, as well as his older brother Kelly and their parents Gail and Jerry.

Kevin told the crowd that life is filled with sorrow, but the key is to live it as joyfully within the sorrows as we can. He draws inspiration from Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, and Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Kevin also said that no matter what challenges we face in life, we can’t back down.

“People often say everything happens for a reason, but it’s whatever you do after those things happen that really matters,” he said. “It’s totally a choice — how do you respond?”

Kevin with his older brother Kelly at Friday night’s book launch in Arlington.

Tim met Kevin about 15 years ago when he started working on a series about the shootings and Kevin’s transcendent awakening that published in the Star-Telegram in 2010. His editor was none other than Steve Kaskovich, my current boss on the Communications, Marketing, and Public Affairs team at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Over time, it became apparent to me that he and I looked at the universe in a very similar way,” Tim told the J. Gilligan’s crowd about Kevin. “And it was a great privilege to be part of this, but it also is something that I absolutely needed to do. Tonight is an amazing night. It’s been a long journey.”

I’ve moved from the newspaper business into public relations at UTSW, so I should do some PR here for Kevin and Tim to promote their outstanding book. This is an uplifting story that needs to be read, shared, and embraced, so please order the book through Kevin’s website at Tim says it’ll also be available through standard retail outlets starting in September, and Kevin says he hopes to have it released in audiobook form at some point.


Two miracles, 42 years apart. Two men, separated by 35 years, with inspiring stories, one now in book form and the other just unfolding.

God bless you both, Hayden and Kevin.

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