Matson was in the last stages of preparing for a quest to run 1,200 miles in 35 days, from Florida to Washington D.C., to help raise awareness and funds for a Long Beach nonprofit that help repair the hearts of destitute Cambodian children suffering from congenital heart defects.
Hearts Without Boundaries, will be the benficiaries of Matson's run, and plans are under way to have officials from the fledgling agency and one of their patients, meet Matson when he arrives in the capital at the Cambodian Embassy.
Matson, himself a survivor of a congenital cardiac defect, finds it easy to keep such kids close to his heart.
As Matson prepared for his epic run he said, "It's definitely not going to be hard to stay motivated. The kids I'm helping will be in the back of my minde the whole way."
Matson said while the run will be the hardest physical challenge he has undertaken, "it won't be hard to keep my eye on the prize."
The Florida resident, a 30-year-old wrestling coach and substitute teacher, realizes that although he was born with a rare and dangerous heart defect, he was lucky. Matson had first-rate medical care and doctors were able to repair his defect without any residual effects.
Had Matson been born to destitute parents in a country such as Cambodia, he likely wouldn't have survived. And that's why helping less fortunate kids means so much.
Matson, who coaches at Lakewood Ranch High School, will leave his home in Bradenton, Fla., and plans to arrive in Washingtion on July 19. He is the founder of Tri 4 Number 1 Foundation, a nonprofit, and has used other ultra-endurance feats to help causes.
He has twice cycled across country for the Children's Heart Foundation to support kids with congenital heart defects, whom he calls his "heart heroes."
He also ran 76 miles in 20 hours in another fund-raiser. Although comparing that effort to the coming one he says, "I didn't have to get up and do it again the next day."
Matson underwent open-heart surgery in Chicago for his own heart defect when he was a toddler. He suffered from a defect known as partial anomalous pulmonary venous return, a rare defect in which one or more of the pulmonary veins carries blood the wrong way. In Matson's case, three of his four pulmonary veins were pumping blood the wrong way. He also had a hole in his heart known as an atrial septal defect.
The defect causes excess blood flow and forces the heart to overwork to pump blood. Matson said when he received surgery, his heart was already three times normal size from the extra strain.
Along the route of Matson's run he will meet and run with children with heart defects and medical groups. He will also be carrying his group's mascot, Diplo the Diplomatic Penguin, a plush doll children are encouraged to sign. Diplo will be given to the Angkor Hospital for Children. Stories and video from the trip will be available online at www.T41Run.com.
Matson first met Hearts Without Boundaries founder Peter Chhun in 2012 and soon realized he wanted to help out.
Hearts Without Boundaries has brought four children to the United States for heart surgeries unavailable to them in their home country and recently has helped support cardiac surgery missions to Cambodia.
Matson said his goal for the run is to raise $21,000. The said the number is significant because it costs Hearts Without Boundaries about $3,000 per patients to save a heart and $21,000 would save a "lucky seven."
"I am sure that each of Mr. Matson's footsteps during his 1,200 mile run will echo through the entire congenital heart defect community," Chhun said.
According to the Children's Heart Foundation, congenital heart defects are the No. 1 birth defect nationally and worldwide, affecting nearly one percent of all babies. They are the leading cause of all infant deaths in the United States. In Cambodia, where an estimated 100,000 children have the defects, they can be a lingering death sentence.
During his run, Matson's team will keep an ongoing blog with videos and twitter feeds and a open invitation for runners to join him.
Information is available by calling 941-567-6606, or e-mail to Tri4Number1@gmail.com.
While Matson's carbo dinners are done for now, Matson said he might be able to sneak in pancakes before he hits the road.
Contact Greg Mellen 562-499-1291