HLC Chats With... Ryan Matthews!
Ryan Matthews serves as the Director of Programs with Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters and as the Executive Director of The Susie Foundation, which he founded in memory of his mother, Susie, who had ALS. Ryan often joins us a fearless cabin leader at Camp HLC and has recently joined the Hope Loves Company team as the organization's Advancement Officer!
(HLC): Do you have a nickname? How did you get it?
(RM): Oh man, I wish I had a nickname! I’m just Ryan – for better, or for worse.
(HLC): What is your favorite childhood memory?
(RM): I’m so very grateful to say that I have many fond memories of my childhood and most of them revolve around sports. I was lucky to play a lot of baseball and basketball growing up, which connected me with incredible experiences and relationships – both of which still have a profound impact on me today. Out of all of these experiences, I would say that my favorite is pitching a complete game shut out to lead my high school team to a league championship. The accomplishment was great, but doing it alongside so many of my teammates who I loved made it all the more sweeter.
(HLC): Camp HLC is one of our wonderful programs. Have you ever attended summer camp? If yes, what was your favorite memory about camp?
(RM): Absolutely! A few times now, in fact. Though there are plenty I can think of, I think my fondest was serving as a cabin leader and playing ‘cabin golf’ with the boys in my cabin. Though I had intended for us to just kill 15 or 20 minutes before breakfast, it turned into one of those magical camp moments of fun, laughter, and connection that only happen at Camp HLC.
(HLC): Who is your favorite musician?
(RM): Though that sincerely depends on the day – honestly, I can switch from Post Malone and Billie Eilish, to Luke Combs and Mumford & Sons within an hour – the artist that has had the most impact on me is Dave Matthews (no relation though, sadly). From an early age (around 7-8 years old), his albums have been the soundtrack to much of life and nobody sounds like home or brings me peace quite like Dave.
(HLC): Do you have a pet companion? If so, please share his/her name and what you love most about him/her.
(RM): I sadly do not, but I do love animals and can be often spotted becoming immediate best friends with every single dog walking with their owners around my neighborhood.
(HLC): People would be surprised to know that... (cool fact about you!)
(RM): People would be surprised to know that I’m a former New Orleanian and lived there about 10 or so years ago. Not surprisingly, I love brass bands, celebrate Mardi Gras, can whip up an incredibly tasty bowl of gumbo, and exist as one of the three Saints fans in Connecticut, which is both a blessing (Super Bowl XLIV) and a curse (literally everything since).
(HLC): What is one thing you can share with others about resilience and adversity?
(RM): Though it may sound like a cheap cliché, I think that most people don’t realize how resilient they truly are until they meet tremendous adversity. This can be scary, especially if we’ve never really experienced adversity before (how strong am I really?) but, when pushed against the wall and faced with incredible challenge, we humans are extraordinarily resilient. The trick for many is only to realize and remember why they are electing to persevere in the first place.
(HLC): What's your go to person, book, or movie for inspiration?
(RM): My wife, Liz, who is an incredible 9th grade English teacher at Hartford Public High School here in Connecticut. The love, devotion, and passion she has for students – and education, generally – inspires me each and every day to approach my work with the same heart and enthusiasm. Literally and quite honestly, I am married to my hero and that is something I am so very grateful for.
(HLC): If you have a go to resource (website, blog, etc...) that you think would help others, please share it!
(RM): Though it’s not digital (or, maybe on Kindle?), I’d recommend Anna Quindlen’s Short Guide to a Happy Life. It’s short, poignant, and an easy read for a quick pick me up when you lose sight of what’s most important. It’s also the book I gift the most and I couldn’t recommend it any more strongly.
(HLC): Share something that you want others to know about ALS...
(RM): It’s not a disease, it’s a calling. For those of us who have lived alongside it and seen its horrors, ALS calls us to the service of others in a profoundly inspiring and deeply transformative way and, along the way, teaches us so much about the depth of our capacity to love. Yes, ALS is terminal, but so is life. And the lessons ALS teaches us about how to live – with love, with compassion, with selflessness, and with joy – can utterly and completely change us and, in turn, change the world.
Thank you Ryan for participating in HLC Chats With and for everything you do for families living with ALS through your work with both The Susie Foundation and Hope Loves Company.