At 19 months old, Ace had reached the age where his parents, Mike and Megan Moudy, found joy and fun in taking their jovial son on public outings.
There he played on the left field berm at Bowlin Stadium on April 5, his first Nebraska athletics event. Well, that is, until he smacked on the softball dugout a few too many times, and they moved behind the berm, to a bigger area of grass where he was less disruptive but just as spirited. His mother laughed as she shared the story.
“He just could not have been any more fun,” said Megan Moudy, formerly Megan Southworth, who played softball at Nebraska. “He was dancing every time the music came on. He was mesmerized by the cheerleaders and dancers, blowing them kisses and waving at them.”
Ace ran up to some of Megan’s former teammates, and they held him as he smiled and said “hi.” His favorite word, in fact.
“He never had ‘stranger danger’ and was always like the happiest kid that you could ever meet, always laughing, always smiling,” said Mike Moudy, a former Nebraska offensive lineman. “Every person he met, whether it was a stranger or family or whatever, they all got to see that side of him.”
A bigger boy for his age, Ace – named for the term referring to a softball team’s star pitcher – had only one issue at daycare. He’d get written up for tackling other kids.
“But it was because he was running to hug them, because he was so friendly and had a lot of love to give,” Megan said.
On their way home from that softball game, Megan remembers calling her mother, saying how Ace was so good and had so much fun, and how they all needed to do more events like this together.
“We just couldn’t get over how it was the best night ever,” she said.
“You could not have asked for a better day for him,” he said. “It truly was a perfect day.”
The Moudys arrived at their Papillion home, the night of fun compete. Mike and Megan put Ace to sleep.
He never woke up.
Three months later, the University of Nebraska and Haymarket Park have approved an initiative to begin fundraising efforts to build a playground in Ace’s memory. Former Husker athletes are solely responsible for spearheading the initiative, including Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, whose company, Crouch Recreation, will be responsible for construction.
“I really think it’s indicative of what type of people Nebraska has,” Megan said. “They take care of one another. I really don’t think you can find that anywhere else.”
Named “Ace’s Place,” the playground will be on that very patch of grass behind the left field berm at Bowlin Stadium, where Ace enjoyed his final day, and will “provide a place where community, happiness, love, joy and all-around fun can be shared with all,” according to the Moudys’ Go Fund Me page, where anyone can contribute.
During the first three days of the fundraising efforts, people had donated more than $6,400. The goal needed to build the playground is $75,000.
The idea began when some of Megan’s co-workers had reached out to the Nebraska Athletics Department, wondering if they could put a small memorial plaque at the softball field, knowing that’s where Ace spent his final day.
It’s turned into something bigger – much bigger than Megan would’ve ever envisioned.