Most of his possessions were stolen, but not a Greg Maddux bobblehead

Gavin McElroy had his belongings taken on a trip to Utah for law school, save for one important item
Heather and Gavin McElroy enjoy a recent Braves game.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Heather McElroy

Credit: Photo courtesy of Heather McElroy

Heather and Gavin McElroy enjoy a recent Braves game.

One of the last things Gavin McElroy packed for his journey west to begin a new chapter of his life was his Greg Maddux bobblehead.

Now, it’s one of the few mementos from his childhood that remain.

Gavin and his mother, Heather, packed up his car last month for an epic three-day road trip to Utah, where the 22-year-old will begin law school this month. In tow, was a U-Haul trailer that contained most of his worldly possessions. There were the essentials – a bed, mattress, desk, drawers. There were the items of great sentimental value – photo albums given to him by his grandparents, an antique model car from his great-grandfather, a bag his great-grandfather used in World War II.

They made it from Avondale Estates to Kansas City, Missouri, on the first day. They awoke the next morning to find the car with an empty trailer hitch. In the night, someone had stolen the U-Haul and all the belongings therein.

“I would say it was definitely shock and surprise,” Gavin said. “I almost laughed a little at first. At that moment, you are like ‘wow, really?’ It’s not the worst thing that could have happened. … This changes the trajectory of the trip a little bit. Definitely upset. Definitely frustrated. At the end of the day, I felt like OK, it’s gone. We talked to the police. They said we probably aren’t going to find it. How do we start moving on from there?”

One place to start, was a bobblehead.

In the aftermath, they discovered the Maddux bobblehead in the back seat. It was wrapped in bubble wrap, boxed and labeled as Gavin entrusted Heather with the task of making sure the childhood memory arrived safely just before the trip.

“That was one of those things when he found it,” Heather said. “‘Look, I still have the bobblehead. Greg Maddux. Go Braves.’ We literally had a little celebratory moment that we had something left. Now, it has a whole lot more value. It’s the only old thing he has on his shelf. Everything else he had to purchase – including the shelf.”

A Greg Maddux bobblehead sits on a shelf  in Utah as one of the lone mementos of Gavin McElroy after most of his belongings were stolen.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Heather McElroy

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Heather McElroy

Gavin doesn’t remember getting the bobblehead, a Braves giveaway in 2002. But he always remembers having it. It was a gift from his grandparents, big Braves fans, and they presented it to him when the family moved back from Germany when Gavin was 4 years old. The bobblehead had extra meaning, coming from his grandfather, who was a baseball player himself whose hopes of a professional career were derailed by diabetes. His grandparents still watch the Braves almost every night.

The U-Haul eventually was found, but none of the possessions with it. The family still is dealing with the police and insurance company. In the meantime, Gavin is trying to replace what he can. There aren’t many Braves, Falcons and Hawks gear in thrift stores in Utah. Heather said she alternates between being mad and sad.

“Stuff is stuff,” Heather said. “It’s just the little things that you can’t get anymore. … I’m so proud of him. He’s been so resilient about it. He said ‘Mom, I’ve got to move forward.’”

Gavin, who went to St. Pius X, intended to be a business major when he attended Auburn. Conversations with a family friend got him thinking about a career in law. He changed his major to political science, and his career path took him to the University of Utah for law school.

The path hit a minor bump in the road.

“It’s just stuff,” Gavin said. “It stinks. Life goes on. You gain things. You lose things. Honestly, maybe it was good for me to downsize a little bit. There is a little bit of a silver lining in it. I got to come all the way out here with my mom and had a nice road trip with her. They didn’t break into my car. Things could have been a lot worse. …

“And I still have the bobblehead.”