For Wesley Matthews, making a significant financial commitment to fight pediatric cancer came down to two things: Changing the future, and making a difference in his home state — in two places where his basketball talents had the most impact.
That’s why on Monday the former Madison Memorial and Marquette University star’s donation to Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer — the largest personal gift from a professional athlete in the 44-year history of the MACC Fund — was so meaningful.
The MACC Fund didn’t disclose the exact amount of the gift, but it will be earmarked for UW Health’s American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison and Children’s Wisconsin hospital in Milwaukee.
“It’s not even as an athlete — it’s as a human being,” Matthews explained during an interview on ESPN Wisconsin’s “Wilde & Tausch” on Monday morning. “You always want the world to be better. We say we want to leave the world better than we found it. That’s what we all want to do.
“For me, I’ve played in numerous different cities, but Wisconsin is always going to be home. And being able to impact home in a positive way is always something that’s going to valuable to me.”
Fun having ex-@jmmspartans, ex-@MarquetteMBB and current @Bucks guard @WessyWes23 on @WildeAndTausch to discuss his awesome mom ... and his support of @uwhealthkids and @childrenswi via @maccfund.— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) September 28, 2020
Cool @eric_nehm story: https://t.co/yRtu52PDvq pic.twitter.com/TXuIGZUeUY
Despite entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Marquette, he’s earned an estimated $105 million during his NBA career, according to Spotrac. He has one year left on the two-year, $5.258 million contract he signed last year.
In his 11 NBA seasons, Matthews, who turns 34 next month, has played for six teams — the Utah Jazz, the Portland Trailblazers, the Dallas Mavericks, the New York Knicks, the Indiana Pacers and the Milwaukee Bucks. He played in 67 regular-season games this season for the Bucks, averaging 24.4 minutes and 7.4 points per game as a veteran leader and vital defensive stopper for a team that finished the regular season with the league’s best record.
Those travels frequently took him to children’s hospitals for visits, and those experiences led to Monday’s donation.
“The inspiration came from going to the children’s hospitals,” said Matthews, who has a 2-year-old daughter whom he raises as a single dad. “I’ve been to a lot of children’s hospitals across the country, just by being an athlete, to try and make a kid or a family’s life a little bit better that day. And I always came away from it more rewarded than I ever would have imagined. And it never got old.
“It was always tough to see these families that are enduring this tragedy, and being a parent myself, I couldn’t imagine the pain that they have to go through every single day. We all want this world to be cancer-free, we want this world to be better in every single way. And for us, myself, my family, the city, the state, this is a step. I hope a lot of people follow suit, and hopefully we can get a step closer every day to not having to have those visits because they’re not needed anymore.”
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