Talk about uplifting. Like our other honorees, Matthew Garcia elevated our souls with his act of selflessness. Unlike the others, Matthew took us literally, by hoisting a girl on his shoulder.
Matthew was in the crowd for a youth football game in San Antonio, Texas, cheering on his younger brother, who played for St. Luke Catholic School. Addie Rodriguez was a member of the cheerleading squad for their opponents, St. John Bosco, who had planned a special set of cheers that included the cheerleaders’ moms and dads. First, the girls cheered with their moms. Then, their dads. All except Addie. Her father, Abel Rodriguez, is a senior airman and medevac tech in the Air Force. He has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was away on a training mission.
“I was feeling sad that my dad wasn’t there, especially because he just left the day before,” Addie said. “I was feeling left out.” Matthew spotted Addie and felt her pain. “When I was young, my parents were divorced, so I related to her. I knew what it was like to go do a sporting event without both of your parents. Seeing her crying, having no one there for her. It was almost like an instinct.” He jumped two fences and made a beeline to Addie, whose face was in her hands. He knelt down, then asked if he could give her a boost so she could join in the cheer.
“I just thought, ‘Wow. Somebody actually came and did something to help me,’” Addie said. “I was amazed.” He lifted her above his shoulders for only a couple of seconds. “By the end of it, the crowd was clapping,” he says. “At the time, I thought it was about the game. But right after that, a couple fans approached me to say thanks. I couldn’t believe it because it wasn’t a big deal to me.”
Addie, too, said thanks after the game, “and then he gave me a cupcake.”
Addie’s mom, Alexis, said thank you on Facebook. “I asked people to share it, but I never imagined that it would go this far,” including coverage on local TV, in USA Today, ABC News and a Musial Award. “So many people are affected when their loved ones are in the military and are deployed,” Alexis says. “You don’t see what real life is like for a military family. This sent a message to those families that people can relate and appreciate the sacrifice.”
A year later, Addie and Matthew have stayed in touch in little ways. Matthew sent Addie cookies for her birthday. Addie sent a graduation card to Matthew, now a freshman at Baylor. “It was such a small act, but people told me that in today’s world it’s nice to see something good happening every now and then,” Matthew says. “I’ve also realized that anything you do, no matter how small, people take notice of it and remember how you make them feel. I realize now that everything I do can affect people and everything I do has a purpose.”