Keeping Michael Mattia’s Memory Alive
“Keep Going” is a statement that has taken on new meaning for Chuck and Iris Mattia. On January 9, 2021, they lost their 31-year-old son Michael from an undiagnosed heart condition that presented as a complication of COVID-19. “We learned that the statement ‘Keep Going’ was very important to him. We saw in his work emails and signs in his home. ‘Keep Going’ has become our mantra… it’s not about keep going as in moving on. It’s about working through things that are difficult. And we have learned quite a bit about that,” Chuck shared.
To honor Michael’s memory, the Mattia’s started the Michael J. Mattia Memorial Scholarship Fund in 2022. This memorial scholarship is a family initiative, led by Chuck and Iris, with assistance from Michael’s brother Jason and stepbrother Ben. The long term goal is to keep this scholarship going in perpetuity.
This year, the Mattias reached out the Y to see if the Y had space available for a pickleball tournament fundraiser. It was the Mattia’s goal to bring together family and friends to honor Michael’s memory and to raise funds to ultimately benefit a Nashua High School South student through a scholarship.
“We were welcomed with open arms by Chris (Chris Ellison, Westwood Park YMCA’s operations director) when we inquired about holding an event at the Y. What a guy. We met with him four times. He’s very giving. He represents your brand well. Those kind of people are hard to find some days. As outsiders looking in, Chris did everything and then some of what we would expect. We learned quickly you (the Y) have a calling to help people in the community. We didn’t see that coming,” Chuck shared.
“When I heard Michael’s story, I instantly felt the immediate want to support. I lost my best friend to complications with COVID-19 almost two years ago and to see what Chuck and Iris set out to do to keep Michael’s name going and provide financial support to a student pursuing college, how could you not get behind that?! Selfishly, I could not say ‘no’ and this is what the YMCA is about. I am thankful this amazing family thought of us as a host site. The amount of support at the event was beautiful to see – we even had a couple members of our pickleball community come to support and even play! Getting to know a little more about Michael through Chuck, Iris, Michael’s siblings, friends and family was such a pleasure. Embracing grief is not easy, but the Mattia family is doing their best and finding opportunities to honor Michael and pay it forward through his kind spirit. ‘Keep going’ is definitely more than just moving on for this family. I look forward to continuing to work with the Mattias,” Chris said.
On January 10, the Westwood Park YMCA was the host site for the Michael J. Mattia Memorial Pickleball Tournament. Iris, Michael’s step mother, said a memory board that was on display at the tournament had “Keep Going” prominently displayed among many pictures from Michael’s life. Michael embraced most sports and Iris shared that Michael’s first experience with basketball was at the Nashua YMCA (when it was located on Prospect Street). “Michael started playing at the Y 26 years ago. He was very much an athlete and played all sports. He started basketball at the Nashua Y downtown.”
“We had Y members stopping and asking who he was. One woman there was watching us warm up on the pickleball court. I showed her the pictures of Michael. She said her own son passed away at age 23. She walked out to her car and came back in with a donation. Early on I read a book, ‘Finding Meaning-The Six Stages of Grief.’ You take the loss that you have experienced and you make something good out of it. We have done that. Not only the scholarship part of the event being great, but being around his friends helps us feel like he is close by,” Iris said.
“The tournament went as splendidly as we could ever ask for. Everything went great. From support from Chris from day one, to the execution to the event, and being able to see many of Michael’s friends. We don’t get this opportunity so much. We also doubled our scholarship from a revenue standpoint – all while having a lot of fun, smiles and laughs,” Chuck shared.
“Most of the people who participated never played pickleball before. We paired players up randomly, so that there wasn’t a team coming in to crush a competition. It was fun. Our friends partnered up with Mike’s friends. The event itself was tremendous in every way. Iris and I even got to play five games. We didn’t think we could get to play, but we did!,” Chuck said. “The best part for me is having our friends and Michael’s friends together. They came in like gangbusters. The boys (Michael’s friends) were all saying: ‘we can’t wait until next year.’ One of his friends who never played before was eager to learn more about joining a pickleball league!,”
“The tournament was spot on. It allowed us to pay it forward to a deserving Nashua student and we will present a scholarship on Scholarship Night (at Nashua South High School) again this year. Michael came out of his shell in high school. We lived right down the street from the high school. We’re not looking for a scholar athletes; maybe we will find a student who has made a difference to his or her family or made a difference in the community. This has really allowed us to keep Michael’s memory alive. It’s very important to us and very evidentially important to our family and Michael’s friends. They are all great friends. We keep things going in a way that it makes us feel good. Part of this is selfishness; we want to feel that we are doing good by Michael,” Chuck said.
“We learned even more about Michael than we thought we knew. He was very giving to some people that we had no idea even existed. We learned of his mentoring.” After Michael’s passing, Chuck now has a lasting reminder of all Michael was and is, a tattoo of “Keep Going” in Michael’s handwriting. ‘Keep going’ was very important to Michael, and now is very important to Chuck as he navigates the grieving process.
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