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Monday, April 15, 2024

Matt’s Kids Foundation honors memory of Walker County young person

By Anne Louise Phillips, intern, The Community Journal

Matt’s Kids Foundation is a new nonprofit continuing the legacy of Matt Chamness, a Walker County native who died in 2023.

When Matt Chamness passed away at the age of 20 due to type 1 diabetes, his parents were approached by many people who shared stories of Matt’s help and kindness.

“He bought diapers for someone’s kids, and he paid someone else’s power bill. He didn’t really have the money to give, you know? He was making $12 an hour. But still, he gave. We knew we couldn’t let this die with him,”said Jonathan Chamness, Matt’s father. “We named it Matt’s Kids because we wanted to help young adults. To me, 17, 18, 19, 20 — they’re still just kids compared to where I am in life.”

The foundation was founded last November, and focuses on helping young people in need.

“We helped 20 families have Christmas for their kids in December. Christmas was Matt’s favorite time of year, so we said, ‘We’re going to make it happen,’ and we did. We were blessed with people giving and donating,” Chamness said. “Every kid got a tree full. It was amazing to get to be Santa for a day.”

Chamness said it was overwhelming to see how many people donated. 

“I attribute a lot of that to Matt. They were honoring his legacy. That’s really a confirmation of who Matt was and what he meant to people,” Jonathan Chamness said. 

Diabetic needs are also a primary focus of the foundation.

“We have two 20-year-old boys who are now in our care. They’re staying with us. One of them is a type-one diabetic. Their families were unable to provide for them on a lot of levels, and a 20-year-old is not prepared for that. We kept getting alerts about this kid in need of medical supplies, so that’s how we got connected with them,” Chamness said.

 These boys were the inspiration for the future plans of the foundation.

“The dream is to have some land with tiny homes on it. It would be a small subdivision for families to go to get their feet back under them. It would be free to stay, and they’d have running water and heat. It would bridge the gap for people who can’t necessarily go to the homeless shelter,” Chamness said. “The dream came to us with these two boys. They could live on their own and work if they just had a place to stay.”

Chamness, who works in real estate, said housing can be a real problem for young people who may not have familial support. 

“Housing can be a hardship,” he said. “Every day, these boys were consumed with how they were going to find food and water for the day, or how they were going to stay warm in the winter, so they couldn’t wrap their minds around a way out. They were in survival mode. Now, they are so excited to go look for jobs, making plans to get a car, get an apartment. They just needed someone to reach their hand out.”

Chamness believes that this honors Matt’s memory and keeps his legacy alive. 

“We’re just doing what he would have done. I can’t see us letting this light of charitable living go out when the world is already such a dark place,” Chamness said. 

To donate or find out more, visit mattskidsfoundation.com, or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

The Community Journal
The Community Journalhttp://www.community-journal.com
The Community Journal consists of staff and volunteer writers working to be the eyes and ears of Walker County residents.

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