June 26, 2023
By: Matthew Goins
Roebuck, S.C. — If you walk the halls of Dorman High School, you will see it on the walls. On the classroom doors. On bracelets worn by students. #ForMatt.
Matt McLeskey was a sophomore at Dorman and a member of the bass fishing team. He was the student who could entice anyone with his smile and humor.
“You can tell he really mattered to everybody,” said his father, Jason McLeskey.
In October 2021, Matt began experiencing excruciating headaches and vision trouble. As months passed, things continued to worsen. In February 2022, he got the devasting news. Doctors discovered a grade 4 midline glioma located against his optic nerve. After a biopsy, doctors learned that the tumor had an untreatable mutation, and nothing could be done.
“They told us that it was not going to get better and that that was the best he would ever be,” said McLeskey. “We decided not to have pain as a family while Matthew was with us. We laughed. We loved. We did everything together.”
After months of Chemo drugs, Matt put aside the medication to pick up the memories. He spent the last months he had left casting lines and making a difference.
Last summer, Matt and his family went fishing in Hawaii for swordfish. Though they didn’t catch any fish, seeing the peace the water gave Matt meant more than anything.
“Fishing in Hawaii was his ultimate dream,” said McLeskey. “We didn’t catch anything, but being on the boat with my son out on that blue water was great.”
Matt could no longer fly due to blood clots caused by his medications.
“In July, He decided to stop taking medication because quality of life meant more than longevity,” said McLeskey.
The family took the near 24-hour journey to the Lake of the Woods in Canada to fish for northern pike. They now have a replica mounted in their home.
The final trip Matt took was to Winyah Bay in Georgetown to fish for redfish last October with his father. It was their last time fishing together.
“Being able to take those trips and spend time knowing that it was the last time we would ever do it meant the world,” said McLleskey.
While cancer took Matt away from his passion for being on the water in his final months, it failed to take him away from his passion for serving others.
After numerous trips to the BI-LO Charities Children’s Cancer Center, Matt witnessed the anguish cancer caused other families. With help from his friends and teammates, Matt led efforts to raise money and donate items.
“He saw and realized what everybody around him was going through and wanted to give back because he experienced the pain and struggle these families had to go,” said McLeskey.
Not only did Matt raise money and donate items, but he also met with Dr. Nichole Bryant to arrange an even greater donation.
“He came to me on his own and asked that I help figure out how he could donate his brain after he died,” said Bryant. “He could have been bitter and angry, yet he was thinking about how to help someone else.”
After he passed away in March, Matt’s brain was donated to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for research.
Since his passing, Matt’s twin brother, Jackson, continues to fish on the Dorman fishing team and raise money for the BI-LO Charities Children’s Cancer Center to keep his brother’s legacy everlasting.
“He’s remembered as an angler, a hero, and someone who made a difference,” said Jackson.
The Dorman High School Fishing Team has two ways you can join in their efforts. The first is by joining them in donating to the BI-LO Charities Children’s Cancer Center. Make checks payable to the Dorman Bass Fishing team with BCCCC Donation as the memo.
You can also donate to the Matthew J. McLeskey Scholarship. It is awarded to a senior Dorman angler going to a two – or four-year college and planning to fish at the collegiate level. Make checks payable to the Dorman Bass Fishing Team with Scholarship Donation as the memo.
All checks are tax deductible and can be mailed to Dorman High School, Attn: Ryan Switzer, 1050 Cavalier Way, Roebuck, South Carolina, 29376.
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