New Year's 2021 baby

Parents Kannika and Michael McKelvey hold Leo, their first child. Leo was the first baby born at St. John’s Health in 2021, and he shares a birthplace with his father, who was also delivered at the local hospital.

For the McKelvey family 2021 is looking bright.

At 1:10 p.m. New Year’s Day parents Kannika and Michael welcomed Leo, the first baby born at St. John’s Health this year.

“I’m definitely overwhelmed,” Michael McKelvey said.

The family was home from the hospital Sunday afternoon, and Kannika and Leo were napping when Michael spoke to the News&Guide. Weighing in at 6 pounds, 15 ounces, Leo was ready to come into the world despite New Year’s Day being before his due date.

The McKelveys headed to the hospital early Friday morning for a quick labor facilitated by midwife Adair Flynt. Leo is their first child, and his birth is not a moment they are likely to forget.

“I was not prepared for how I was going to feel when I saw that baby for the first time,” Michael McKelvey said.

Celebrating the first baby of the year is a tradition at St. John’s. Beyond the normal love children receive when they are born, gifts and cards are showered on the first baby as part of festivities that bring in the New Year, including one with a sticker that reads “Born in Jackson Hole.” More than 30 businesses donated gifts, a hospital press release said.

In 2021 the sense of turning over a new leaf is palpable. Other families of New Year’s babies sent the McKelveys cards, bringing the trio into a small subset of the local community.

“It’s always going to be a big part of the story of Leo’s life,” his dad said.

Another part of Leo’s already rich life history is that he and his father share another connection. Michael McKelvey was also born at St. John’s, so he and his son will forever be linked by their birthplace.

In some small towns, that’s a normal occurrence, but Jackson can be a hard place to maintain longevity, so the elder McKelvey said it’s special that he and Leo can share that despite the changes the town has undergone since he was a kid.

“I’ve always considered myself incredibly lucky to be born in Jackson and to have the opportunity to stay,” he said. “To have things come full circle, it’s really cool.”

For now the family is resting. McKelvey will (mostly) be off work at his father’s heating company, while his wife is on hiatus from her job at Teton Thai. She is part of Jackson’s Thai community, so they both have deep roots and large circles in the area, and they are looking forward to the time when everyone can get together to celebrate Leo.

Until then they will be cautious, interacting with only a few family members and friends who keep the same COVID-19 precautions as they do. Even without the ability to gather with all their loved ones, they’re happy to have people around them to help as they adjust to their bigger family.

“We’ve been so well supported,” McKelvey said. “I just hope that we can get through all this COVID stuff so we can get to the point where we can really have our community close.”

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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