• Baylor freshman receives sportsmanship award for random act of kindness

    There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of moments every day when we have a chance to brighten a stranger’s day. It might be as simple as holding the elevator door or giving up your seat on the subway, or more out-of-the-blue like paying for someone’s groceries or spending a day volunteering to help strangers in your community. It’s a special kind of person who gives a grand gesture for someone they’ve never even met.

    During the fall of 2016, Baylor freshman Matthew Garcia got a chance like that at his younger brother’s football game. That evening did not start as a happy one for Matthew, as he had just learned he didn’t qualify for the state cross-country meet and had to break the news to his mother. As halftime began, Matthew and his mother watched as the cheerleaders did a special performance with their parents. Fathers hoisted their daughters onto their shoulders for the routine — but one cheerleader stood out from the rest.

    The cheerleader, 9-year-old Addie Rodriguez, stood alone, cheering by herself. When she covered her face and burst into tears, Matthew left his seat, jumped the fences between the stands and the field, ran to her and asked if he could hoist her onto his shoulders like the other cheerleaders’ dads. Addie accepted, and the crowd cheered with excitement as she finished the cheer on his shoulders.

    As Matthew and his mother later learned, Addie’s father was a senior airman and medevac tech in the Air Force and was away on a training mission. The day he returned from his deployment, he brought lunch to Matthew’s high school so he could meet the young man who was so kind to his daughter.

    “I think that struck a chord with me because my parents are divorced,” Matthew says. “So I kind of knew what it was like to only have one parent at a sporting event. I could kind of relate to her, and I think that’s why it was almost instinct.”

    It was all just a random act of kindness — one that any person could do — but with so much darkness in today’s news cycles, it earned coverage ranging from local TV to USA TODAY and ABC News. And most recently, Matthew was even honored at the 2017 Musial Awards, which recognize the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship in North America.

    “People were applauding when I got the award, and I remember looking out thinking, ‘Wow, I don’t deserve this,’” Matthew says. “I’m happy that people are recognizing what happened. I think it makes an impact on people, but I still don’t think much of it.

    “After I’ve seen the impact that something that little causes, you never know what could happen. A small gesture can make somebody’s day, and that means a lot to me.”

    Sic ’em, Matthew!

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