By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer
This student took the saying “lifting someone up” to a whole new level.
Fair Oaks Ranch freshman Matthew Garcia was in the crowd for his brother’s youth football game in San Antonio when he noticed something strange. Addie Rodriguez, a member of the cheerleading squad for the opponents, was crying on the sidelines.
The cheerleaders had planned a special set of cheers that included the cheerleaders’ moms and dads. First, the girls cheered with their moms, then their dads. All except Addie Rodriguez. Her father, Abel Rodriguez, is a senior airman and medevac tech in the Air Force. He has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and had left the previous day on a training mission. When the girls began to cheer with their fathers, Rodriguez was visibly upset. Garcia ran down the bleachers and leaped over the fence down to the track to where the cheerleaders were performing and stayed with Rodriguez through the father-daughter cheer.
Tracey Whelan, a Baylor alumna, was attending the game when Garcia ran down to help Rodriguez.
“It happened very quickly and it was a very genuine, heartfelt action. In that moment, he saw someone hurting and acted on that instinct to help others,” Whelan said. “It didn’t matter that she was there representing the other school. He saw even from afar that she was crying and in need, and he acted on that instinct to help. It was very beautiful to witness that in person. He jumped right in and performed the cheer routine with the other cheerleaders who were performing with their fathers.”
This weekend, Garcia received a Musial award for his actions.
Named for Stan Musial, a sports icon who embodied class and kindness, the Musial Awards recognize the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship in North America and honor legendary sports figures who personify its virtues, according to its website.
The Musial Awards takes place annually the Saturday before Thanksgiving in downtown St. Louis. In addition to keeping alive the legacy of Stan The Man, the event aims to inspire selflessness, integrity and civility in sports and society. Its organizers want to have a transformational impact, empowering people across the nation to be good sports.
Garcia’s actions made a lasting impact on the Rodriguez family, and both families travelled to St. Louis for the awards.
“I was feeling sad that my dad wasn’t there, especially because he just left the day before,” Rodriguez told Musial. “I was feeling left out.”
Garcia said that his actions were instinctual.
“I don’t think anything was going through my mind,” Garcia said. “It felt like almost like an instinct. I wanted to help because I could see she was hurting and I was hoping there was something I could do.”
Whelan and the rest of the crowd was highly impressed with Garcia’s actions.
“He is someone who saw even from very far away that someone was hurting and in need, and he rushed to answer that call,” Whelan said. “He has a truly beautiful heart.”
Rodriguez was touched by the gesture as well.
“I just thought, ‘Wow. Somebody actually came and did something to help me,’” Rodriguez told Musial. “I was amazed.”
Garcia travelled to St. Louis Friday to accept the award.
“It was an amazing feeling accepting the award this weekend,” Garcia said. “It’s been an honor and a blessing. I’m sure there are people who deserve it more than I do, but it has definitely changed my life.”