Some volunteers are passionate about sports. Others are naturals at working with young people. Still others are inspired by working with individuals with visual impairments. Luckily, NWABA found someone who is committed to all of the above in Matt Hoffstetter.
Matt, who is currently the Sales Director of Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, was volunteering for the local Red Cross Youth Council when NWABA Director Billy Henry organized a goalball clinic for the Youth Council members, all with normal eyesight. “I found it really fascinating to see how quickly the kids took to Billy and admired him,” Matt remembers. “What really struck me was the kids’ interaction with Billy. It meant a lot to them. I thought, ‘We should figure out a way that we can help Billy and NWABA do what he is doing.’” That was just the beginning of Matt’s volunteer career with NWABA.
Changing lives on a tandem bicycle
At first Matt took on logistical jobs, setting up goalball courts. “I was a nonskilled volunteer,” he says. Then Matt observed a Paralympics Experience clinic which featured multiple sports–goalball, tandem bikes and judo–in the Seattle area. That is when NWABA tapped into his true love – bicycling.“I gave an 11-year-old girl a tandem bike ride and she was scared. At first she wanted to slow down. Before the ride was over, she wanted to race her friends. I thought that was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Matt has observed the metamorphosis of many athletes at NWABA clinics. “I was impressed with how parents were with Billy and how he related to even the most timid of athletes,” he says. “Some were horribly shy and you could tell they didn’t want to be there. Billy talked to them and walked them through the whole thing. One kid was hiding behind his dad. By the end of the clinic the students were transformed.”
Matt continues to assist with clinics and joined more than 100 volunteers at the 2013 National Goalball Tournament in Vancouver, WA last June. “Those kids at the tournament were tremendous athletes,” he remembers. “Matt always goes above and beyond as a volunteer,” says Billy Henry. “He has been instrumental in supporting our programs since 2011. Matt has helped with setting-up for goalball, running Paralympic Experiences across the region, and assisted with the planning of our auctions. He has a great sense of humor and is always willing to take on tasks that others don’t always want to do.”
“It’s so rewarding,” Matt says. “Kids get their confidence raised tremendously. It’s different at every clinic. For someone who has never ridden a bike, it can be life-changing. Billy is building a team of mentors for some of these younger kids who are wondering what their lives are going to look like.”
“I think honestly Billy has shown these kids that there are no limitations,” he says. “Sometimes you might need to modify things a bit but really they can do anything. For the kids who are visually impaired they think, ‘I can do whatever I want. I just need to work through any hurdles.’”
Thank you, Matt, for helping to ensure that students who are blind or visually impaired are gaining confidence and skills that will last a lifetime.