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Communities rally for Mission Matthew

Lori Penner

When Gaby Payment heard that her fiancé was desperately ill, she insisted that someone had to do something to help him.

Their love story is a sweet one. Especially since Gaby and her betrothed, Matt Neufeld, are only nine years old.

Matt has asked Gabys parents, Jon and Tiffany Payment of Gretna for their daughters hand in marriage every year since he first kissed her back in Kindergarten.

But about two years ago, the Blumenort boy with the mischievous grin began to feel very sick.

His mother Bonny says Matt started getting severe headaches and nausea. When walking became difficult, doctors diagnosed him with meningitis.

Treatment worked for a while but soon, the symptoms began again. What followed was a long cycle of headaches, seizures and hospital stays.

The bright little boy who loved school and had big dreams of becoming a chef one day began to experience alarming learning and behavioural problems.

By Dec. 2009, Matt was only able to attend school for one hour at a time. His walking was wobbly and he was always tired.

Then, last November, a biopsy revealed devastating news. Matt was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of brain cancer.

In fact, the condition is so rare doctors dont even have a name for it. Despite months of chemotherapy, which took a huge physical toll, an MRI showed the cancer was still growing.

Recently, the family learned that Matts condition is terminal.

They faced a tough decision. Theyve opted to take him off of treatment and allow him to spend his final days at home with his family. It wasnt easy, and a decision we never, ever thought wed have to make, Bonny says. This kind of thing always happens to other people. Not to you, and especially not to one of your own kids.

But we have peace about it, she says. If the treatment cant prolong Matts life, why make him suffer? We want him to spend whatever time he has left with us.

His parents and five siblings are still trying to process the sad news. And to add to the suffering is the financial burden the years of dealing with ongoing illness has placed on the family.

His father Jake is a long distance truck driver and is currently on compassion leave so that he can spend quality time with his son.

In early March, they began to get their hopes up during a trip to Ontario courtesy of the Childrens Wish Foundation.

Matts wish was to see all his cousins again. During their week in Leamington, Bonny says they began to see the old Matt again. They even took him on an overnight trip to Regina in Jakes big truck - another one of his wishes.

But in the last week, his health has declined at a terrifying rate. Its so hard, Bonny says. As a mom, you just want to fix it and make it all better. But I cant fix this. I feel so helpless. All I can do is watch him slip away.

Bonny says her son knows his diagnosis. Theres two people he wants to meet when he gets to Heaven: Jesus and his best friend Jonathon, she says.

His little fiancé is also devastated by the news, but has taken a proactive approach.

Her mom Tiffany says Gaby asked that they find some way to raise money to help the Neufeld family ease their sad journey.

And thus began Mission Matthew. Tiffany says she gives her daughter full credit for the idea.

They immediately got into high gear and began planning a fundraiser for the Neufeld family.

Within days, donations and offers to help have poured in from communities across southern Manitoba.

Thousands of dollars in raffle prizes have already been donated.

And hundreds of volunteers have stepped up to the plate.

Tiffany says, This family has been through so much already, and they just want to be able to focus on their son right now and not have these financial burdens to worry about. Were hoping at least 500 people will come out for this event.

The Mission Matthew Soup, Pie and Raffle fundraiser will take place Saturday, April 16 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at MCI in Gretna. Anyone is invited to help support the Neufeld family in any way they can. For pie donations, contact Jen Knutt at 327-6547.

For soup donations, call Martha Wall at 327-6669 or email mwall1983@live.com. For bun donations, call Maria Froese at 331-3037 or email mbfroese@hotmail.com

For all other donations (monetary, gift certificates for gift certificate tree, raffle, time for set up, or clean up) or to find out more about how you can help, call Tiffany Payment 327-5351 or email at tpayment@yahoo.ca.

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