Thursday evening could not have been better for Dedham High graduate Matt Burns, who suffered a spinal cord injury over the summer.
"What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I will be a lot stronger after this," proclaimed Burns in front of 100 or so spectators at the "Bat for Matt" Wiffle Ball tournament at Fairbanks Park.
"I plan on making a full recovery and I look forward to that," added Burns.
Burns was injured in a diving accident on July 23, and doctors tell his family he is progressing toward recovery.
Twenty-six teams came together to have an evening of fun, a barbecue and, of course, Wiffle Ball, all in an effort to raise money for the Matt Burns Recovery Fund. With perfect weather and a large contingent of Dedham students and parents on hand lending support for the event, there was plenty of good music and food for everyone to enjoy.
Matt’s friends, Cam Clifford, Tommy Connolly, Kevin Boudrow and Bobby Fish hatched the idea for the tournament. Friends since their Oakdale Elementary School days, who felt a driving need to do something to show their admiration and support for Matt. The "boys" organized the registration while the parents of the boys and other volunteers worked at the event and solicited donations from local businesses.
The parents with the support of the town were able to cover all the expenses and meet the needs of the tournament so all proceeds went to Matt’s recovery fund.
"He really has a close group of friends, I didn’t realize how great they were until this all happened, and to see them all come together for him," said Matt’s mother Gail Burns, who spent 40 hours with Matt after the accident and said his friends were right there with her.
"I didn’t realize how great the Dedham community was.
"Over the past two weeks there has been huge steps to the goal, there has been huge prayer chains from numerous area churches," she said. "And I think that is a big part of it, so I thank everyone for that."
Matt’s twin brother, Chris, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and expressed his gratitude to the Dedham community for coming out in support of his brother.
"I was just so happy to hear how much support he has," said Chris Burns. "It is great to see all the people here today and I am at a loss for words about the whole thing."
Doctors at first expected no movement from below Matt's shoulders, but Matt was able to move his toes and foot after the initial 24 hours and has only increased in his abilities. He now can feed himself with a wider range of motion. Matt also credited Spaulding Rehabilitation for his growth.
"Spaulding has really treated me well," said Matt Burns.
Parent and tournament volunteer, Susan Butler-Walko summed up the purpose of the event perfectly, "This is a way we could really put our arms around Matt Burns and his family." She added that the event is also a teaching tool for the younger Dedham generation.
"Really great for the younger kids who are here to learn about friendship, support, community, love, and how at the end of the day that’s what matters," she said.
Donations, of any size are greatly appreciated and may be sent to: Dedham Institution for Savings
c/o Matt Burns Recovery Fund
55 Elm Street
Dedham, MA 02026.