CHAMPAIGN – If all goes according to plan, what started in a box in Jerry Moran's room could go on to be the beginning of a world record.
In that box, Moran once kept his keychains. Moran, who is developmentally disabled and has a speech impediment, said his sister, Karen McKinzie, would take the box out and look through his collection.
Years later, the Champaign man has seen his hobby grow – and grow and grow, to more than 10,000 keychains, a cornucopia of Disney keepsakes, bank trinkets, action figures, guitars with keys and just about anything else anyone might think to put keys on.
Goals for the collection have also grown, with Moran's family and friends hoping to help him break a world record for the largest collection of different keychains. The Guinness World Record for nonduplicated keychains has already grown from about 20,000 to 41,418 in the time since the family started plotting world keychain domination for Moran.
Clearly, a world-class collection can't stay in a box. It wouldn't fit, anyway.
The collection has already started to outgrow the racks lining the wall of one room of Karen and Kenneth McKinzie's home, where Moran, 60, has lived since his and Karen's parents died.
"Did you just start going to garage sales and collecting them?" Karen McKinzie asked.
"Yes, yes!" Moran replied. He doesn't talk much, but when he does, he's emphatic. He communicates with gestures, but he also communicates with those keychains.
Kenneth McKinzie said that sometimes when Moran struggles to find words or gestures to indicate who or what he wants to know about, he'll head to the room of keychains and pluck one that has a connection to what he wants.
"It's like a memory bank for him," he said.
Moran works to fill that bank daily. On weekdays, he takes two buses to his job at the University of Illinois transfer station, where he sorts garbage and sometimes turns up a keychain or two, like the golden apple from a race or the 1991 fraternity party.
"He finds umpteen keychains in the trash," Karen McKinzie said.
"It's fascinating to see what he comes home with," her husband said. "One man's trash is another man's heirloom."
Moran also frequents garage sales to pick through toys and trinkets for a good find. And on any trip, at every gas station, he'll be scouting.
"He likes hunting for them," Karen McKinzie said. "He likes the search."
Even if Moran's quest is successful, the McKinzies are sure the keychain-hunting will continue.
"He won't stop," Karen McKinzie said. "I'm thankful it's not something bigger."
Help Jerry reach his goal
Keychains can be dropped off at 3102 Sylvan Drive, Champaign, or the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District at 201 W. Kenyon Road, Champaign, or mailed to 806 Dogwood Drive, Champaign.