Updated: Dec 27, 2019
The last time I remember watching a hockey game at the Nichols School ice rink, Matthew was a senior, and we were celebrating the second last game of his high school career. After the game, as the boys were enjoying their Chef’s spaghetti parmesan in the upstairs “warm” room—we felt that warmth in many ways. I tried to take in that evening as his teammates, his friends, his coaches, the parents, and some of the teachers and others from the Nichols community were talking, laughing, joking, reminiscing, and truly enjoying the company of each other, knowing that it was one of the last times this particular group was going to be playing hockey together. The post-game dinner was a special tradition the team had after every home game, and this one was a little more special...looking back on it, it was so very special.
The Nichols boys Prep team was one game away from winning the championship of their league, yet the focus seemed to be more on the people in the room rather than the upcoming championship game in Canada. There was the anticipation of the next game of course, but there seemed to be more of a concern for the boys and their classmates.
Even though they were probably considered underdogs for this championship, there was something special about this 2010-2011 team. From the confident seniors to the wide-eyed underclassmen, the love, respect, and kindness they had for each other, and the unending support they received from their friends, their friends’ parents, their teachers and advisors was palpable.
During the post-game meal, there were conversations about the boys’ futures and where they were headed over the next year. Some were going to play junior hockey, some were staying put for another year to two, some were hanging up their skates and going on to college, and others were unclear of their direction. Who would ever have thought that nine years later we would be gathering in the same rink and enjoying the company of each other, but this time, it was for a very different reason.
Fast forward to December 13, 2019. The feelings of love, respect, and kindness among the players, friends, families, and the overall Nichols community were still there. This time, we were celebrating Matthew’s life and the impact he had on others. It was truly an overwhelming feeling, looking out at the players and spectators knowing some of them knew and loved Matthew as much as we did. And they are missing him as much as we are.
We will never be able to repay all those who have done so much for us and have given selflessly over the past five months. I never realized how much Matthew was loved. And how much we are loved. As we continue to live without Matthew’s physical presence, we will not forget this truly special evening.
Thank you for all who participated. Thank you for all who came out to support us. Thank you to those who spent your hard-earned money to help Matthew’s One Last Goal. Thank you to those at Nichols School who shared their hearts with us and who are not afraid to be open about the struggles and sometime tragedies of life. Thank you for all who worked this event—I can only imagine the countless hours of preparation and cooperation were pretty intense as you organized this very beautiful evening. Thank you to the players—we couldn’t have had this event without your participation—it was special to watch you lace up your skates in honor of our son. We were humbled with how many of you cared about him.
A special thank you to our friends at Nichols School for embracing our family and allowing Matthew’s One Last Goal to be a part of the community. Also, a very special thank you to Joe Avino, Charlie Stein, Jake Zimmer, and Emily Pfalzer who poured their hearts and souls into this event. We have been so honored by your dedication to and love for Matthew.
As we move forward educating others about the importance of mental health awareness in students and athletes, we will never forget all of your love, your support, and most of all your kindness.
With our most sincere gratitude,
The Benedict Family