Ten-year-old Matthew has struggled with health issues for most of his life. Problems arose when he was just four-years-old when he could not eat and threw up if he got any food down. He would have dizzy spells and faint often, telling the doctor that his head hurt so badly sometimes that he couldn’t see. Matthew and his family soon found out that he had a rare brain tumor. He underwent lifesaving surgery but he still has to take 40+ medications per day plus daily injections to manage his condition today. Often, Matthew cannot get out of bed without throwing up or fainting. Despite all the challenges, Matthew’s mother, Melina, is baffled and inspired by how positive her son remains each day. Matthew’s sparkling attitude and personality have been a rock for the entire family.
Matthew has always been an animal lover, but he is obsessed with monkeys. When he was a baby his Aunt gave him a pacifier attached to a stuffed monkey blanket. This began a lifelong obsession with them. Once Matthew got sick, he used monkeys as his source of security – his family always brought them as gifts for him. During his time in the hospital, he received a multitude of stuffed monkeys and always held at least one in his hands. Today, when Matthew’s older brothers give him his daily shot, they pass the time by singing songs and even give his stuffed monkey a shot so he has a buddy by his side.
When Matthew’s Make-A-Wish volunteers first met with him, he had many monkey-related ideas. His initial wish was to have a pet monkey of his own! Given his health, the challenges of taking care of a monkey and the fact that keeping a monkey as a pet in the US is illegal, Mom was able to convince him that perhaps this wasn’t the best idea for the family. Luckily Matthew decided that he would rather see real life monkeys at Animal Kingdom at Disney World. When it came time for the wish reveal, Matthew opened his mouth in awe at the sight of brand new stuffed animal monkeys and the news that he would be going to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom to interact with real life monkeys.
The real excitement began when a limousine took Matthew and his family to the airport to start their journey. This was his first time on an airplane so that was an entirely new experience within itself. Matthew took several monkeys on the trip with him—one for each family member and made sure they took good care of them so no one would get lonely. Throughout the entire trip, Matthew did not throw up or faint once. He was in entirely good spirits. His mom explained that, “He was the most normal kid out there and it had to be from the power of the wish. This was the BEST experience anyone can dream of.” To this day, Matthew still talks about his trip to Disney World. His family was so inspired and moved by the Make-A-Wish experience that Matthew’s grandpa is now a Wish Granting volunteer for Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles. Along with that, Matthew still attends many Make-A-Wish events to support future wish kids and always shows up with a stuffed monkey! He was also transformed into a monkey by visual artist Jody Steel!