Michael Kelly talked to his mother on the phone on Mother’s Day, which isn’t particularly unusual except that Mary Reynolds hasn’t talked to her boy in about 10 years. He’s homeless in San Francisco.
The reunion is the result of the reporting of the St. Cloud Times, which told the story of Kelly’s search for his mother a little more than a week ago.
A San Francisco-based organization, Miracle Messages, made the video as part of its mission to reconnect the homeless with their families, the Times reported. It uses viral videos to reconnect families.
Volunteers are able to leverage the power of the Internet and social media to track down relatives. They have about 100 active volunteers around the country with a handful in Minnesota, but more than 500 people have reached out saying they’re willing to help.
Some volunteers go into shelters and other locations to record messages. Others do Internet sleuthing to find people. Some use social media to share the stories.
Eventually, the group hopes to have a sort of submission form, to make it really easy for volunteers to upload information and videos so they can be shared and connections can be made.
Because some of the chronically and persistently homeless may be dealing with mental illness, the organization looks for informed consent from the initial participant. If it seems that the person making the request isn’t able to consent, they won’t share the video.
It was a slim chance the video would work, but the group reportedly has had more success with less information than Kelly was able to provide.
So perhaps it shouldn’t have been that surprising when Jessica Day, director of programs for Miracle Messages, found Kelly in a park on Sunday, gave him a phone, and said, “I found your mom.”
Sue Thomes, of Silver Lake, Minn., was one of the people who helped find the mother, based on the Times’ article.
“I was just at home and I was scrolling the Times website,” she said. “I thought I’ll use my tools for family research. It didn’t take very long.”
She spent maybe an hour and a half. She found Reynolds’ previous name on a free, public list of Minnesota marriages online. After finding a marriage record, she did some checks to make sure she had the right person.
“This was very rewarding. When I watched his video, it really hit home,” Thomes said. “I have adult children as well. There was something about it … he was so sincere and so hopeful, so positive despite his circumstances.”
The organization set up an online fundraising page to raise money for an in-person reunion.