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Thirteen-year-old Westwood resident was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just after his 6th birthday and has spent the last several years spreading awareness about diabetes among his peers. Will, a patient of Dr. Lori Laffel at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, will be honored with the 2017 Spotlight on Hope Award at Joslin’s annual black tie High Hopes Gala on Saturday, November 4, at the Westin Copley Place Hotel.
When he was first diagnosed at age six, Will was terrified of needles and every insulin injection was a scary experience, but his siblings, always supportive of their brother, would perform silly dances to distract him at breakfast while Will’s parents administered the insulin shots. Now, managing his blood sugar has become a daily part of Will’s life and he is open to discussing his diabetes with others to help spread awareness.
After participating in small fundraisers and diabetes events for many years, Will wanted to take action and host an event of his own to benefit Joslin Diabetes Center as a “thank you” to his pediatric team and the wonderful work they do. An avid hockey player, his annual “Street Hockey to Shut Out T1D” event started in 2016 and has grown steadily, with 14 hockey teams competing last spring at the Kevin T. Mutch Roller Hockey Rink in Canton. Proceeds from the event benefit both Joslin Diabetes Center and Camp Joslin, a unique camp for children with diabetes where Will has gone each summer for the past six years, as well as JDRF.
“I love Camp Joslin and enjoy giving back to it because if you look to your left, and you look to your right, every kid at camp has something in common,” said Will. “You don’t stand out because you have diabetes, you actually fit in because of it. Even the counselors have diabetes and it makes the whole process of summer camp even more fun because you can easily manage your blood sugar during meals and activities because everyone else is, too.”
Now in 7th grade at the Roxbury Latin School, Will is a three-sport athlete, playing hockey, soccer and baseball – and does not let his diabetes hold him back, but rather goes out of his way to raise funds and awareness for diabetes and to educate others. He even brought a basket of diabetes supplies over to a young boy in town who was recently diagnosed and talked him through the process to make him feel more at ease. That young boy joined Will at Camp Joslin this past summer, thanks to his encouragement.
“I pray every day that one morning I will wake up and there will be a cure for diabetes,” says Will. “Being honored with the Spotlight on Hope Award this year only encourages me to continue to spread the word about diabetes and raise funds for a cure.”
His diagnosis was a huge learning experience for Will’s parents with plenty of panicked phone calls day and night to Dr. Lori Laffel, M.D., MPH, Chief of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Section at Joslin Diabetes Center. They credit Dr. Laffel and the Joslin staff with giving them such personal attention and keeping their son at the forefront of the newest technological advances in diabetes care.
“If every nurse and every doctor at every hospital operated the way that Joslin does, the world would be a much better place,” said Sheila Matthews. “The staff at Joslin gives you so much time and encouragement, they really do care no matter how much time and effort it costs them, and they make you feel like your family is the only one in the world.”
Will Matthews, along with Dr. Lori Laffel, will be honored at Joslin’s High Hopes Gala, a black-tie affair to be held at The Westin Copley Place Hotel on Saturday, November 4, from 6 p.m. to midnight. For tickets or to make a donation, visit www.joslin.org/gala.