Nicole O'Neil Photography
This is a good day to talk about a (not photography related) event I am working on and share a story about an important person.
Many years ago, my uncle made a great decision. He dated and then married an amazing woman who was part of a wonderful family, The Browns. Always kind and generous people and always good for a laugh, they proved to fit in great with our family. I was older than the kids in that family, so I did not spend a lot of time with them, but my sister did and I would see them periodically. The younger generation is just as wonderful. They are kind, smart, talented, and caring young people.
Three years ago today, the Brown family's life changed drastically and so did the lives of everyone around them. Matt, a 15 year old at the time, was paralyzed during a hockey game. It happened on a Saturday night when he hit the boards in a way that broke his C4 and C5 vertebrae. We (O'Neil's) were on a family trip to a local indoor waterpark when my aunt Laura got the news about her nephew. There are no words to describe the feeling you get knowing such a thing has happened to someone you know, let alone someone who is family. Matt is a great athlete, student, and person. To think such an accident could happen to such an amazing person was almost unbearable.
However, from the beginning, his family and those surrounding them, have never strayed from the belief that he will walk again. It will take hard work and time, but it will happen. Matt spent a month in Children's Hospital followed by 2.5 months in a rehab in Atlanta, where he learned how to live with this injury. During that time, the outpouring of support from not only the tight knit community of Norwood, but from across the nation was unbelievable and very appreciated by Matt and his family. Some of Matt's idols including Patrice Bergeron and Ray Bourque, visited him and have remained friends and supporters ever since.
Next to pics are borrowed. :)
Matt has worked hard since that day 3 years ago, determined that he will walk again. The encouraging words sent to him have helped to keep his spirits up and keep his "eye on the prize". Through all of this adversity, Matt remains one of the kindest, funniest, and mature people I know. His ability to put anyone at ease and inspire is something I am in awe of every day. Whether it is a child, a teen, young adult, or an older adult, he knows exactly what to say. This is just one of the reasons why he has become an inspiration to any person, young or old, who has met him or followed his story. He is supported by his amazing and strong parents and sister. They, as well as every other family member and friend, are there for him and have faced this challenge with the same grace, positivity, and strength that Matt has. Again, I am in awe.
A lot of hard work went into planning a large fundraising Gala at Gillette Stadium on April 30, 2010, just 3 months after Matt's accident. My uncle is just amazing at doing such events and pulled a great group of people together and worked closely with Bob Kraft to put on an unbelievable event. With the theme, "An Evening of Faith, Hope and Inspiration" the gala was attended by 3600 people. Words can't describe the sight of that many people there to support Matt. He was still in Atlanta, but able to skype in, providing people the opportunity to verbally give their support right to him. That gala raised a lot of money to help Matt's family deal with the enormous cost of his care. Matt came home the following week to a large crowd welcoming him back. I have also been amazed by the young generation in Norwood. They have showed grace and maturity like no other teens I have ever known. Matt's friends rallied around him and have been by his side daily since his accident.
A second Gala took place on the floor of the TD Garden on September 24, 2011 with the theme, "Family, Friends, Community: Our Journey Together". Matt was there and it was well attended by supporters including some former and current Bruins players. It was another inspiring night full of fun, dancing, great food, music, and auction/raffle prizes. It also featured a video "Day in the Life" of Matt which can be viewed on his website (link below).
Matt has had many accomplishments over the last 3 years. He has gained strength in his body and has been working out at Journey Forward, a facility that focuses on intense exercise for those with spinal cord injuries.
Matt graduated high school last year (on schedule despite missing the second half of his sophmore year-another example of his hard work) and started his college career at Stonehill College where he lives on campus.
Last year, Matt participated in the Boston Marathon. His friend, Lucas Carr, pushed him through the 26.2 miles in 85+ degree weather. The smile on Matt's face as they came to the end was something i'll never forget. He has an infectious smile anyway, but to see the pride in that smile as he finished was amazing. No matter what he's been through and what he deals with, Matt faces every day with a positive spirit. As he says, “yeah this injury stinks, but I still have a life to live.” He continues to inspire me every day. His motto is "Never Quit". He has also become a spokeperson for Prove People Wrong, started by 4 young men "to spread the Prove People Wrong philosophy, and help people overcome adversity through dedication and hard work." See Matt's motivational video here: PPW
We will have the final Gala this year. It will take place on April 6, at Fenway Park. It will be another amazing event featuring great music, great auction and raffle prizes, and sports celebrities. More information will be coming soon. If you want to keep updated there are links below and I will be updating (a lot) on both my personal and business Facebook pages and twitter. It will be a truly inspiring and fun event. There will be limited ticket sales, so keep an eye out and get your tickets as soon as they become available!
"I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." Christopher Reeve
Matty B, you inspire me every single day. At least 90% of my trips to the gym are sporting a NEVER QUIT MB3 shirt or one of the other MANY t-shirts that have been made in your honor. I never leave my house without my PPW bracelet or an MB3 pin. I am proud and feel blessed to have you as family. I love you and know you will reach your goal. Never Quit.
Matt's website (view the "Day in the Life" on the right side of the homepage): http://www.mattbrownnumber3.org/
Facebook page: Pray for Matt Brown #3