Community rallies around 13-year-old diagnosed with leukemia
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Friday, Oct. 25, 2013

Community rallies around 13-year-old diagnosed with leukemia

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/23/13/44/1mByiq.Em.138.jpeg|211
    - COURTESY OF ERIN WUNDER
    It was an emotional night when the eighth-grade Marvin Ridge Middle School Mavericks football team presented a check to Holy Trinity player Matty Nestor, who is battling leukemia.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/23/13/44/wAr8I.Em.138.jpeg|211
    - COURTESY OF ERIN WUNDER
    The community has rallied to support 13-year-old Matty Nestor, along with his parents, Matthew and Siobhan.

The Marvin Ridge Mavericks’ eighth-grade football team may have defeated Holy Trinity Catholic Middle School Bulldogs recently, but both teams came out on top in that game.

The Mavericks surprised Holy Trinity by presenting a check for $2,600 to a Bulldog player, 13-year-old Matty Nestor, who was diagnosed with leukemia less than two months ago.

Soon after Matty’s diagnosis, the Holy Trinity football and cheer squads set up an Instagram page to offer support, prayers and good wishes. The page already has 1,200 followers.

That page is where Marvin Ridge quarterback Matthew Wunder first saw Matty’s name and picture.

“Matty had a lot of friends posting his picture, and I started thinking it would be great to show our support by raising money for him and presenting it at our game,” said Matthew, who also is president of the school’s Junior Beta Club.

The Mavericks had only a few weeks before the game against Holy Trinity, so Matthew, the Mavericks football team and the Junior Beta Club spread the word around their community.

The team ordered and sold orange wristbands and ribbons (the leukemia support color is orange).

“Then we asked people to make posters saying ‘Marvin Ridge supports mattystrong,’ and we told everyone to wear orange the night of the game,” said Matthew.

Marvin Ridge coaches contacted Holy Trinity head coach Nick Starcevik, telling him about the fundraiser and what they had planned. Starcevik named Matty a captain the night of the presentation, and the captains and the teams met at the 50-yard line, where they presented the check to Matty and his family.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place that night,” said Matty’s father, Matthew Nestor Sr. “It was truly amazing to see young kids tearing up during the presentation. It was incredible to see all this support from kids at Marvin Ridge who had never met Matty.

“It was a very special night.”

Seeing teenagers reach out to strangers who are now friends has touched both parents and educators. “One of the goals of Beta Club is to encourage service to others,” said Debbie Mayer, a math teacher and Junior Beta Club adviser at Marvin Ridge Middle School. “When Matthew was running for president, he mentioned the fundraiser for Matty in his speech.

“What impressed me is that Matthew told me after his speech that whether or not he wins the presidency, he was going to make sure we did this fundraiser for Matty.”

The overwhelming support has heartened the Nestor family, which includes mother Siobhan, 14-year-old brother Sean and 3-year-old sister Aisling. The Holy Trinity team retired Matty’s jersey from last year; the players and cheerleaders made posters and decorated his room when he returned from the hospital and made special socks for the team to wear that read “pray for Matty”; and organized a group to attend a fundraiser for Camp Care, a camp for children with cancer, said Nestor.

The support extends off the field, as well.

“The principal at Holy Trinity, Kevin Parks, has been a godsend,” said Nestor. Matty currently cannot attend school, so the staff has ensured he has the appropriate materials to be home-schooled.

Additionally, neighbors have delivered home-cooked meals.

“We have enough dinners for the next 30 days,” said Nestor. “I have never seen anything like this before.”

Matty has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments since the first day he was diagnosed.

“He has good days and bad days, but he is such a great kid and always tries to keep a smile on his face,” said Nestor.

Dawn Liles is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Dawn? Email her at dliles63@yahoo.com.

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