Cornell McKay receiving the Stan Musial Youth Character Award

Photo by Debbie Monterrey

MONTERREY: Hope, Help, Cornell & Stan the Man

Debbie Monterrey
May 01, 2018 - 5:47 pm

by Debbie Monterrey

It was a night of celebrating victories, a night of compassion, and a night of incredible generosity.

At the 10th annual Stan Musial Hall of Fame Gala, the Stan Musial Youth Character Award was given to Cornell McKay, a young man who was in the news on KMOX quite a bit a few years ago. In August of 2012, while he was living at Covenant House Missouri, he was arrested, charged and convicted of a crime he didn't commit and spent three years in prison before the charges were finally dropped. 

"In August of 2012, there was a gang of guys doing robberies, and I actually got caught up and accused of the murder of [former SLU volleyball player] Megan Boken. So you guys are looking at the guy who got blamed for that murder. But I'm not really here to talk about that, " says McKay. "I'm here to talk about how Covenant House saves lives. Even though I got locked up and incarcerated for three years of my life, if it wasn't for Covenant House, I would be sitting down doing 24 [years in prison] and now I'm getting awarded with the Stan Musical [sic] award! What!? This is amazing to me!"

Cornell McKay hugging members of Stan Musial's family.
Photo by Debbie Monterrey

That August, Cornell was living at Covenant House and working on his GED when a group from First Baptist Church near Washington, MO, came to Covenant House. He bonded with Pastor Chris Douglas, a former police officer, and decided to get baptized. Two weeks later he was arrested, suspected of stealing a cell phone from a woman in the Central West End (despite a strong alibi that he was at Covenant House at the time of the robbery) and suspected in the murder of Megan Boken (despite Pastor Douglas and others swearing that Cornell was in Washington, MO, with them at the time). 

Those who knew him never stopped fighting for him. After three long years in prison, all charges against him were dropped. (Eventually, Keith Esters was convicted of Megan Boken's murder).

"I am a man who did come home from a level 5 penitentiary. I took advantage of the Job Corps program, I got my GED, I'm working for Better Family Life right now and I'm actually helping homeless youth find a place to stay."

The keynote speaker was Kevin Ryan, executive director of Covenant House International, who gave major props to Missouri for helping to put an end to, a website long known for peddling prostitution. 

"Three weeks ago, Backpage got shut down by the Justice Department. Eight C-suite executives were indicted for money laundering and conspiracy, and President Trump signed legislation that created for the first time accountability for online human trafficking," according to Ryan.

That bill was co-sponsored in the US Senate by Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and in the House by Ann Wagner (R-MO). (Although, despite the President praising the bi-partisan nature of the bill, McCaskill was not invited to the bill signing).

On top of that Missouri connection, Ryan says of the 20,000 postcards in favor of the bill delivered to leadership in the House and Senate, more than 7,000 were from Missourians. 

"It's an insidious and pernicious crime, [this law is] really bringing accountability for the first time to the people who've been buying and selling kids across the United States for decades with complete impunity," says Ryan.

Referencing a study of homeless teens across the US and Canada, Ryan says most of them get approached their very first day on the streets by someone wanting to take advantage of them, offering them at first a place to stay or a warm meal.

Covenant House Missouri is celebrating 20 years, having served 100,000 teens. Not just helping them with a place to stay, but helping them change their lives. 

The gala Saturday at the Four Seasons brought in $450,000 to keep this mission going. Amazing generosity for extremely important work. 

Debbie Monterrey, Covenant House Executive Director Sue King, Paul Kindl, Donna Kindl
Photo by Debbie Monterrey


                                         # # #