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April 13, 2023 was a day that changed the lives of Ralph Yarl and his family forever. Ralph’s mother, Cleo Nagbe, often replays the dreadful event in her head. She would do anything to go back and change the circumstances that led to her son’s tragedy.

Ralph was a 16-year-old African American boy enrolled at Staley High School, an academically gifted student and musician. He was sent to retrieve his younger twin brothers from a friend’s house nearby. Ralph went to the wrong home by mistake and rang the doorbell. While waiting for someone to answer the door, Ralph was shot twice through the house’s front glass door. Ralph sought help from neighbors and was refused at three different homes. Finally, good citizens found him lying injured in the street and called the police. Police rushed to the scene and discovered Ralph with gunshot wounds to the head and arm.

Rushed to the nearest hospital, Ralph was stabilized and then transferred to a children’s hospital. Doctors scrambled to form an emergency team and save Ralph’s life. He was admitted to the hospital around midnight and in surgery by 6:00 AM. Surgeons drilled a hole in Ralph’s skull to remove one of the bullets. Miraculously the bullet in his arm passed through without damaging bone or tissue.

Against the odds, Ralph survived the gunshot wounds and awoke from surgery in overall good condition. His mother, Cleo, jokingly refers to Ralph as a cat with nine lives. Ralph was discharged from the hospital late Saturday, April 15th, only two days after his injury.

Once home, Ralph received excellent care from his mother, who is a nurse, and his Aunt Faith, a physical therapist. The story of Ralph’s tragic incident made the national news. Nationwide Ralph and his family received a tremendous outpouring of love and support. Ralph’s family and community rallied for him. His aunt successfully created a GoFundMe page to help cover medical bills. Ralph and his mother even received a phone call from President Joe Biden to discuss his recovery.

Despite Ralph’s good prognosis, in the days and weeks to follow, Ralph suffered from debilitating migraines, balance issues, focus issues, mood changes and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from the shooting. His headaches were too frequent for a full schedule of school. He completed some classes online in the spring but did not return to school full time until the fall.

Today, Ralph still has pain from time to time and difficulty multitasking, becoming overwhelmed and irritated easily. His body requires even more sleep than the typical teenager. Despite ongoing challenges, Ralph is progressing and persevering each day.

Ralph is in his senior year of high school. He has an engineering internship working in 3D modeling software and thermodynamic calculation for process management. (Whew!) Music is his biggest passion. He plays the bass clarinet for multiple bands in his school. He also plays the tenor saxophone for the jazz band and will travel to Tennessee with the band in March to record an album! Ralph gathers with friends regularly and belongs to a DND (Dungeons ‘N Dragons) club inspired by the popular Netflix series, Stranger Things. Next year, Ralph will attend college with plans to major in materials engineering. Although he is still reviewing his options, Ralph is excited about his acceptance to Texas A&M University.

At an early age, Ralph has learned tough lessons about overcoming adversity and hardship. His fighting spirit, love of learning and can-do attitude remains stronger than ever.

Ralph says, “Stuff just happens. You must deal with it and make the most of it.” For these reasons, the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater KC is proud to announce Ralph Yarl as this year’s Honoree of the Going the Distance Memorial Day Run for Brain Injury. Thank you, Ralph, for inspiring us.


1993 - Tricia Thompson*
1994 - Casey Powers
1995 - Josepha Mosley
1996 - Karen Dionne
1997 - Terry Cheyney
1998 - Laurie Williams
1999 - Suzanne Dotson
2000 - Patricia Mendenhall
2001 - Pat Poull
2002 - Hubert Feuerborn
2003 - Tony Zink
2004 - Mark Dmytrk
2005 - Chad Myers*
2006 - Ben Avery
2007 - Nicole Turner
2008 - Scott Ward
2009 - Chad Grotewiel
2010 - Jake Clough*
2011 - Kevin Walker
2012 - Avery Schieszer
2013 - Dustin Criscione*
2014 - Katie Zemel
2015 - David Haydon
2016 - James McGinnis
2017 - Zeke Crozier
2018 - Alanna Seymour
2019 - Steve Zink
2021 - Terri Kern
2022 - Tyler Moss
2023 - Brent Parks


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