Matt’s Promise was founded by my late husband, Matt Wiederkehr.
Matt and I were together nine years, married for five, and in that short time we built a loving partnership. Matt was truly a family man — devoted father, wonderful husband and partner, loving brother and son, loyal friend, and a committed and energetic employee of Google, Inc.
Matt never had any alarming or typical symptoms, so we were shocked when on December 8, 2003, he was officially diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer. In November 2003, Matt went to his internist with what we thought was just a harsh and nagging seasonal cough. But after many rounds of antibiotics and a month of tests, we were handed the diagnosis that the painful cough was a symptom of several tumors in his lungs. Matt was only 33 years old.
Matt lived life aggressively for the next nine months, spending time with family and friends and fighting as hard as he could to turn the corner and get healthy again. Matt’s courage, positive demeanor and hopeful outlook never wavered but during the course of his treatment he became deeply concerned with young people battling terminal illnesses and with the quality and nature of their care. This new awareness drove Matt to focus a great deal of his time and energy on creating a vehicle that would outlive him and would help other people who were suffering.
Matt’s Promise is a foundation established to carry on his vision — indeed, his promise — to make a positive and far-reaching difference in a world in which too many young people are battling terminal illnesses.
I think that my husband’s passion about the foundation in the face of the overwhelming battle that he was fighting is the best evidence of the kind of person that Matt was. I know that he would be proud of the progress we have made in advancing his vision in such a short period of time.
The Matt’s Promise “egg” logo is of special significance because it embraces Matt’s spirit in several ways. The egg is symbolic of the circle of life and of rejuvenation. It represents growth and new beginnings but is also a shape that is timeless . . . and has no end.
Thank you for visiting the Matt’s Promise website and thank you for your support in keeping Matt’s memory and Matt’s Promise alive.
Jennifer Wiederkehr Rothberg
Notes from a friend
More times than I can count, I’ve sat down to jot down some words about Matt. To describe in a few sentences who he was and how this foundation came to be. And despite the scores of times I’ve done it, I still get choked up. Over 10 years later it still seems impossible to believe that he is no longer with us.
Matthew Wiederkehr was 33 years old when he was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer – and less than a year later, despite a heroic battle, he was gone. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and remember how lucky we were to have him in our lives. Many of you in this room feel exactly the same way. A son, a brother, a father, a husband, a relative, a friend to so many – Matt’s reach was amazing. Everyone he touched loved him and everyone he befriended was better for having known him.
For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure, imagine a man whose energy lit up a room. Imagine a man whose zest for living and passion for life were infectious. Imagine a man with the most clear and incredible sense of “self.” An extraordinary individual who knew what he loved and knew who he loved. That rare breed of person who was always comfortable in his own skin, knew exactly who he was and was unapologetic for it. I think this is why people gravitated toward Matt – he made people feel good about being themselves. You might think that all changed when Matt learned of his illness. After all, how easy can it be for someone to make people feel good about themselves when he is staring his own mortality in the face? For Matt, it seemed, pretty easy indeed. Matt made fighting his battle a celebration of inevitable success. As impossible as it seemed, being with Matt became even more inspiring.
The birth of this foundation is the culmination of all of Matt’s generosity of spirit and selflessness.
Matt’s absence leaves an unfillable void – but true to form he left us something inspiring on which to focus. He selflessly left us a legacy – and a mission. A foundation devoted to eradicating terminal illnesses affecting young people with a core project: Start with the illness that threatens to take the life of his best friend’s youngest son.
In the past decade, through our partnership with Charley’s Fund, we have directed over $30 million to transitional research. Our goal is simple: save a generation of children with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy – including Charley. Each day, at Matt’s urging and in his name, as your generosity and our efforts bring us one step closer to a treatment for DMD we remember him and we smile. Leave it to Matt to keep on inspiring everyone in the room more than a decade after his death.
I miss my friend every day – as do so many of you in this room tonight. Every year, thanks to your generosity, we gather in his honor, remember Matt, and continue the work he inspired. Words cannot adequately express our appreciation for your support and love. Thank you for your commitment and patience. Thank you for helping us to keep Matt’s Promise.