‘Never Quit’: Number '3' has Special Meaning for Hockey Player’s Teammates and Community
Signs, posters, hats, wristbands, and shirts with the number “3” are posted in shop windows and pasted on car windshields in Norwood, a small suburb outside of Boston. Windows of local businesses are draped with the number “3”. Cars’ bumpers are covered with bright yellow circular stickers saying “3”, while rear windshields display a mustang with a bold blue-colored “3” through the stallion. The signs posted in Norwood represent a hockey player who has faced adversity and continues to inspire his teammates and the community.
Matt Brown, 18 years old, was forced to mature earlier in his life as a sixteen-year-old. In 2010, Brown was paralyzed from the neck down in an ice hockey game during his sophomore year of high school. After the accident on January 23, he was in the Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital of Boston for ten days before he was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga. who specializes in rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries for about three months. Brown is now a quadriplegic. Although he is confined to a wheelchair, his injury has not confined his goals nor his achievements.
“Matt is on a mission to achieve his goal - to skate again and showcases the drive and determination that we value. He's an inspiration, plain and simple,” said Jared Antista, Director of Sales and Marketing of Prove People Wrong. Prove People Wrong is an organization that helps encourage and inspire others to prove people wrong. Whether one is too small or too slow, this organization helps enable people to prove wrong. Brown is on a mission to beat the odds and doubts. “My exact message is that I will walk again!” said Matt Brown emphasizing the “will.” He chooses to keep proving people wrong. In the spring semester of his senior year of high school, he announced he was attending Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. to study business and planned to live on campus. “Attending college is something I never imagined I would do after I was hurt so I am really, really, really proud of myself,” Brown said. “And the whole part about living on campus is awesome. It makes me feel ‘normal.’ I am having so much fun and I am so happy that I could do it.”
As a freshman in college, Brown has already been able to check off a few boxes of his bucket list. Brown was able to meet with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, to discuss future plans to build a rink in Norwood. Brown had two galas prepared in his honor. The first gala was hosted at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. The gala featured donated items, such as signed professional athletes jerseys, vacation trips, and many other unordinary commodities, for a silent auction. The turnout was one of the largest at the stadium that people were actually being denied entry because of overcrowding. The second gala was hosted at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Mass. Similar to the first gala, the second one featured a silent auction of donated items, but also included photographs with and signatures from multiple professional National Hockey League players. Also, Brown even had the luxury of meeting a celebrity, Taylor Swift. Swift and mother requested to meet Brown and to have him backstage to relax and simply converse.
Brown’s experience has turned tragedy into lessons of perseverance and hope for others. “I have learned how strong of a person Matt is from this experience,” said Peter Kelly, a close friend of Brown. Brown’s accident not only touched his close friends and family, but also the community. “I have also seen the effects of something like this on communities such as our town, and the hockey community coming together and showing so much support and love to him,” added Kelly.
Even though Brown does not know, he helps people in many ways. “Having Matt as a roommate is awesome. When I’m with him I don’t feel homesick and when he’s not here I do,” said Austin Glaser, Brown’s roommate. His friend, biggest fan and mother, Sue Brown said, “He has made it easier for all of us. Each day he gets up and faces whatever the day has in store with very little complaining.” Although he may be unaware of his friends and families ways of coping and pulling through his accident, his positive attitude was the main reason they were able to cope. Kelly said he could speak on behalf of many of his friends on the ways the friends were able to cope. “It was hard to see someone you love in a hospital bed unable to help himself. Seeing him improve little by little every day helps cope in seeing him on his way back to independence,” said Kelly. Another way Brown has helped people cope is to joke around. When people ask about him, he wants the answer to be serious, yet humorous. “My Journey, the highs and the lows, but mostly highs. It would definitely be a comedy!” said Sue Brown referring to a title and description of a non-existent TV show based around Brown’s life.
Brown has even affected people he does not directly know. “We wanted him to be in our campaign because of his perseverance through adversity in order to achieve his goals. While most of our customers, fans and followers will never face what he does, we feel that his efforts can inspire others,” said Antista. Prove People Wrong is an organization that campaigns to, “Overcome the doubt,” as Antista simply puts it. Prove People Wrong includes many famous athletes, such as Tim Thomas (National Hockey League goaltender), James Van Riemsdyk (National Hockey League forward), Charlie Furbush (Major League Baseball pitcher), and Kristine Lilly (former U.S. Women’s Soccer player). Prove People Wrong exemplifies the story of David versus Goliath in sports form. “His humble recognition of our conference and our purpose showed true character, for not everyone would like to speak in front of hundreds of energized high school students,” said Shannon Ryan, Southeastern Massachusetts Association of Student Councils delegate. Brown spoke in early October at the conference for Southeastern Massachusetts Association of Student Councils.
Brown says the strangers who look up to him are a big reason he battles to move forward. “When someone comes up to me and tells me that I am an inspiration it really touches me, Brown said, “Because I'm only 18, I'm still a kid and I'm having people who are a lot older than me calling me an "Inspiration." That's the type of stuff that keeps me going!”
Brown demonstrates a high-spirited attitude. He symbolizes the “no fear” outlook on life. His constant daily struggles show what determination and good-will can achieve and makes “the sky the limit for him,” said Glaser. The saying “Never Quit” is more than a slogan, it’s a lifestyle that Brown demonstrates with amazing ability.