Jennifer "The Pay-It-Forward Hero"

Photography by    Randy Bacon

Photography by Randy Bacon

My name is Jennifer and I was born on January 26, 1974. I was raised by a single mom of 3 and life was not always easy. Despite her struggle, my mom took care of me and my siblings the best that she could. We were kept in church on a regular basis and my mom worked hard to make sure we had food and clothing.  

Throughout my middle and high school years, I loved sports but couldn’t play very often due to my asthma. I ended up being the sports manager for my high school basketball and volleyball team. In my early years of college, I became interested in Rugby but my asthma once again held me back. That was, until I met a coach that took time to work with me on building my endurance. She ran me through exercises and let me practice with the team until I got stronger and no longer had to use my inhaler. I was finally able to join the team, ‘The Kansas City Jazz’. One year while at a Rugby tournament, I ended up attending my first ever women’s boxing match at one of the local bars. I was instantly hooked. I happened to be standing next to a boxing scout who, tickled by my enthusiasm, asked me if I would try out for boxing. Long story short, he had watched me play rugby earlier that day and said that I did not hit like a girl. I soon signed on and became a Women’s Professional Boxer for the WIBF. (Not bad for a girl who had to be the sports manager in high school)

In 1997, my boxing career led me to San Diego, California where I trained at Irish Spud Murphy’s gym. It was a smelly, sweaty, blood stained gym but I loved every day that I got to train there. Because women’s boxing was new, I was often the only girl in the gym and endured plenty of snickers from the guys. In fact, the first time I walked into the gym, I met Emilio Elenes, and he was less than thrilled that I was looking for a trainer. When I came back the second time, I brought a news crew doing a story about me, a farm girl chasing her dreams in California. For the first time, Emilio Elenes grinned at me and said he would give me a trial run.

Jennifer McCartney boxing image

Since I was the only girl at the time, I had to spar with guys. I really did not enjoy sparring with them because they never treated me seriously until one day when I finally decided to show them what I was made of. As I got into the ring with my opponent, I could tell that he was not taking me seriously. That meant he really was not paying attention. He looked over to one of the other guys and smirked. In his moment of distraction and arrogance, I dealt him a straight right punch to his stomach, which dropped him immediately. It was at least 20 minutes before he recovered. Never doubt the determination and drive of a focused woman!  

After that day, the guys in the gym viewed me as their bad-ass sister and they took me under their wing. It was life changing. I reached 4th in the world but suffered a tremendous blow when, in 1999, the woman I loved was killed in a car wreck. It devastated me. I just gave up. With my heart and soul in pieces, I moved back to Kansas City, Missouri.


I continued to train but there just were not many avenues for women boxers in Kansas City so I retired in 2002. I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Autumn, in 2003. It was then that my life started down a different path. Stepping out of the limelight and suddenly becoming a single mom was rough. I never finished college because of my boxing career so all I knew was the service industry. I became a bartender and room attendant for the Sheraton Suites where I worked for a total of 12 years. I finally ended up as a Mental Health technician for a local hospital, a company that I truly love.

In 2015, I realized how sick I was of being a struggling single mom. I wanted to do something to help others. I started a pay-it-forward group on Facebook called ‘Kansas City Heroes’. My group was designed to help people with disabilities, senior citizens, and single-parent homes by providing acts of kindness. I added 127 of my friends to the group and led the way. I started mowing lawns and doing housework for free for those that who were now unable to do those things. 

I posted pictures and videos as I went and I watched in awe as my group started growing. Fast forward two years and the group now has over 2,100 members and 8 Administrators. We have been able to bless so many people and the list keeps growing. From building a porch for a single mom of 7, to house work, yard work, handyman work, getting clothing and food for families, getting furniture and so much more. We are a grassroots organization that wants to get the “pay it forward” message out.  


What an amazing world it would be if we all just paid it forward to those in need! When someone asks to join our group, they have to answer one question before they are approved, “Will you pay it forward as a Kansas City Hero?”

We have members from every profession that help each other when there is a need. We have a disabled Senior who was a property maintenance worker for years and now she fixes furnaces, toilets and whatever others need. We have a disabled member that makes mats for our homeless friends out of plastic bags, other members bring her the bags. We join up with other volunteers every Sunday to feed, clothe, and fellowship with our homeless friends. We start out at 3 different parks, with the group ‘Free Hot Soup’, where I am also an Administrator, and we have a huge buffet of food, clothing, and toiletries for our friends. Then we go out to different homeless camps and reach out to them as well.

It does not take a lot of money to help someone in need, just a lot of love and compassion. We can all deal out some of that! Kansas City Heroes is full speed ahead and ready to bless even more people in the future. We have Kansas City Heroes accounts for Instagram and Twitter as well, which has recently attracted the attention of some well known celebrities. I am so excited for our future!

Don’t forget to Pay It Forward every day!!

January 2018


Kansas City Heroes is a Pay It Forward group committed to lending a helping hand to people in need through our actions. Coming together, to help others, is something we should do every day. Together we can make a difference! Everybody matters :) Pay it forward with Kansas City Heroes!