‘We Don’t Feel Alone Anymore’

Rodriguez Family Thanks Community For Support During Son's Convalescence

Oscar Rodriguez cuts a ribbon on a van partially purchased with money raised from the community. The van is used for transporting his son, Matthew, foreground, to his doctors’ appointments. Looking on is Nicolas DiMeglio.

Family members of a township boy who was nearly killed when he was struck by a car last year gathered together on November 11 to thank the community for its support.

The occasion was also the ribbon-cutting of a van the family was able to buy to transport their son to his doctors’ appointments with money raised through a GoFundMe campaign.

The boy, Matthew Rodriguez, was struck shortly before 9 a.m. October 21, 2019 while crossing Franklin Boulevard, near Hillcrest School.

Rodriguez was not expected to live, but he defied the odds.

Attending the event at Franklin Middle School – Hamilton Street campus were school district officials, members of the Franklin Township Police Department and volunteers who helped in teh effort to support the Rodriguez family during the past year.

That help was recognized by Matthew Rodriguez’s father, Oscar, in comments he made during the event.

“I feel glad to be part of this community,” Rodriguez said. “I feel proud of a community like this, that really represents the values and generosity and the real heart of the American experience.”

The Rodriguez family – including Matthew’s mother, Sophia, and his sisters Daniella, Rosa and Ruth – had only moved into Franklin less than two months before the accident, Rodriguez said, which made the community’s support – including hospital visits by Hillcrest’s administration and teachers – even more important.

“That was great because we moved from far away from here, we don’t have anyone close to us,” Rodriguez said. “But thanks to this community, we don’t feel alone anymore.”

Nicolas DiMeglio, who at the time of the accident was the president of the Franklin High School PTSO and the district’s PTO/PTSO President’s Council, organized a “meal train” and the GoFundMe campaign.

DiMeglio said within an hour or so of him notifying his contacts about the need for the meal train, “that Meal Train was filled for three months. That’s how quickly the community came to help out this family It’s amazing.”

Matthew returned home seven months after the accident, which is when DiMeglio said Oscar Rodriguez wished that he had a van that he could use to get Matthew to his doctors’ appointments on time.

DiMeglio said he told Oscar Rodriguez to research used vans, and he soon found one in Connecticut.

“I did a GoFundMe to help out the family,” DiMeglio said. “The community came together again and in the matter of a month we raised over $11,000 for the family so they could buy this van to get Matthew to his appointments. It’s just amazing the way this has come together for this wonderful family.”

Former MacAfee Road School principal Bill Grippo also helped with the volunteer effort.

“Matthew, you are a true Warrior, you are an inspiration for all of us,” he said. “Your determination, your strength, your family, all just great qualities.”

Hillcrest School principal Al Fico told how he first met Matthew Rodriguez when the new student stopped in his office, and noted that he did not act shy, like most other new students.

“He’s still full of life, he’s still witty, he’s still fighting,” Fico said. “Matthew never gave up, and neither did his family.”

Joel Simpsons, co-president of the Hillcrest School PTSO, said Rodriguez wasn’t just a student, “you are a wonderful, brilliant young man, who has given this community hope, knowing that anything is possible through community support and school support. You gave me hope.”

“You’re a great young man, and I just want you to continue to be that great young man,” he said.

Franklin Township Police Officer Stacey Grant was one of teh officers who responded to the call after Rodriguez was hit, and who helped give him CPR.

“I did not know if Matthew would pull through,” she said. “I cannot tell you the joy that was in my heart when I received the invitation for this event.”

“I want to tell you what an inspiration you are, and that your bravery and courageousness is what inspires us all,” she said. “Thanks for being that inspiration to us, and for fighting that fight and we will be here for you.”

FTPD Capt. Sean Hebbon echoed Grant’s promise.

“We’re here, letting the family know and Matthew know, anything you need from the police department, let us know about it. We’re here for you,” he said.

Schools Superintendent John Ravally said Matthew’s story was “an amazing story of strength and faith.”

“Matthew, it’s your strength and desire to recover that has us here celebrating your life tonight,” he said. “You made this happen.”

“The ribbon-cutting today symbolizes what a community can do when they come together, and what power a community has when they come together to do good,” Ravally said. “Truly I hope that the efforts of those here today serve as an example for others in our community to emulate, because the power of coming together and supporting each other is really what has Matthew here. Matthew did a lot on his own, but every single one of you here made today possible.”

Board of Education president Nancy LaCorte said that the Rodriguez family “exudes kindness.”

“I think that that’s really impressive and inspirational, and you’re inspirational to all of us,” she said.

“It’s kind of cool that you can pull so many people together and pull so much love and kindness out of their hearts to come here today on behalf of you,” she said.

At the end of the program, asked if he wanted to say anything, Matthew Rodriguez simply said, “Thanks.”

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