Prescott senior's journey to graduationGraduation day is fast approaching for Prescott seniors who will receive recognition for the milestone of successfully completing secondary school.
Graduation day is fast approaching for Prescott seniors who will receive recognition for the milestone of successfully completing secondary school.
Each senior has their own story about the journey they traveled and the struggles they encountered along the way. Here is one student’s unique story.
Matthew McCarthy’s life was forever changed in an instant. On May 13 of 2005, the unthinkable happened. A full-size pick-up truck exceeding the speed limit and traveling at 90 mph slammed into Matthew and his family on Hwy. 35.
Matthew was not expected to live or even survive the air lift to the hospital. After hearing the doctors’ diagnosis, his parents were left to wrestle with a decision no parent should ever have to make: whether their son would be better off dead or alive.
Sixteen weeks later, his parents enrolled Matthew into sixth grade at Malone Elementary School. He was 11-years-old and in a wheelchair, unable to walk, could barely speak, had double vision, was unable to concentrate and was functioning at the comprehension level of a four-year-old.
Despite the odds against him and the challenges that he faced, he thrived. However, it did not come easy. While many of his peers enjoyed summer break doing the things they enjoyed with their families and friends, Matthew was forced to spend summers working diligently with occupational therapists and tutors just to keep up with his academics.
Tragedy into triumph
Most people who endure the type of brain injury Matthew did must expend a great amount of energy to accomplish the everyday tasks that to others come easy. They also require sleep during the day to recharge. This didn’t stop Matthew.
He joined cross country and track. Although Matthew was extremely tired after a long day at school, he pressed on and ran at every practice. Matthew went on to compete and letter at the varsity level alongside his able-bodied peers.
Furthermore, Matthew received the honor of being named Kiwanis Student of the Week, an award given to students who rise above mediocrity and are standouts in their academics, extracurricular activities and within the community. Patti Schommer, a teacher’s aide who worked directly with Matthew upon his return to school, recalled his spirit of determination.
“I can do this Ms. Schommer, he would say. I was concerned for his safety sometimes because he was so determined. He told me he was going to walk up the stairs.”
Paying it forward
Matthew wanted to give back and contribute to others in return for all of the help and support he had been given in his time of need--and he did so in a big way. He volunteered and became a fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network.
Matthew was asked to give live interviews and share his story of triumph on KS95 for Kids Radiothon, which benefitted Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and Children’s Cancer Research Fund. He also worked as a representative for Gillette Children’s Foundation.
Matthew was selected to be the spokesperson who accepted donation checks in ceremonies for many charity events benefitting better healthcare for children: Minnesota Wild Hockey, Minnesota Twins Baseball, Vikings Football, University of Minnesota Gopher’s Basketball, University of Minnesota Dance-a-thon, Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart Softball Tournaments, and Wal-Mart Walk-a-thon.
Matthew also worked with Gillette Children’s Foundation fundraising team to create a mailer detailing his story of triumph over tragedy. It was the most successful fundraiser of its kind Gillette had ever done and set an all-time record for donations exceeding a half a million dollars.
To put this all into perspective, Matthew’s accomplishments in academics, athletics and volunteerism are significant. Matthew has lived his young life to its full potential despite many setbacks.
Prescott Middle School’s language arts teacher, Donalee Johnson, said, “To go from being bound to a wheelchair with severe head trauma to walking across a stage to earn his high school diploma is an incredible accomplishment for Matthew. He should be very proud of himself for his progress and how far he has come over the past six years.”