Matt Brown: One kind turn deserves another

After defying long odds, author and motivational speaker’s Matt Brown Foundation supports those with spinal cord injuries in Massachusetts

Twelve years ago, Matt Brown broke two vertebrae in his neck while playing hockey, the sport he called “the love of his life.”

A sophomore at Massachusetts’ Norwood High School, Brown was chasing the puck behind the net during a 2010 game when he collided with another player, hitting the boards head first.

“You’re taught to get back up,” Brown remembers. “I tried, and I couldn’t get up. It was scary.”

He was paralyzed from the shoulders down.

The Norwood community rallied around him, offering support to the Brown family as they adjusted to the big change in their lives. The Boston Bruins, Brown’s favorite NHL team, provided the teen with his first state-of-the-art wheelchair, while the Travis Roy Foundation supplied his first wheelchair-accessible van.

“The support systems, they might be the reasons I have not let the injury ‘win,’” Brown says, crediting his friends and family for his many accomplishments—finishing high school on time after his injury; completing an undergraduate degree in communications; co-authoring a book about his experience; and completing 10 marathons with a running partner.

Most recently, he launched the Matt Brown Foundation in 2020 to support people with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) in northeast Massachusetts.

“I always knew I wanted to give back. I had to give back,” he says of his dream to launch a foundation.

One of the first people the foundation was called on to help was a man hurt while playing hockey. “The story hit home,” Brown says. The non-profit supported the injured athlete by providing funds toward a wheelchair-accessible van.

Though his foundation is young, it’s enjoyed success raising funds through a golf tournament as well as through the Boston Marathon. Enbridge joined the community to support Brown’s 2021 Boston Marathon run with a Fueling Futures grant of $5,000 to help the foundation purchase equipment for people with spinal cord injuries.

“If an individual needs a bed for their house, an overhead lift for their house, or a piece of equipment, that’s where we want to come in and help,” Brown says.

Through the foundation, he meets others at different stages of their journeys with SCIs. There’s the fellow injured hockey player, for example, and a 13-year-old boy hurt in an accident.

“I’ve met so many people in this unwanted club, so many individuals facing the same challenge I faced, that my family faced,” Brown says.

While every spinal cord injury is different, Brown hopes the work of the foundation can help everyone facing an SCI write the next chapters of their life “the way they want to write them,” he says. “By no means is an accident like this the end.”

(TOP PHOTO: Matt Brown crosses the finish line at the Boston Marathon with his running partner.)