EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Newlyweds Matt and Katie Douglas like doing things together at home and work. They’re both one-on-one aides in the Egg Harbor Township School District.
“I basically am just the classroom helper, I guess you could say,” jokes Matt Douglas.
This school year Matt was assigned to help a boy in Cheri Cottelli’s fifth-grade class at Miller Elementary School but every day he’s been absent.
He is fighting a deadly kidney disease known as FSGS that has caused him to miss work since May.
Financially and mentally, he admits it’s been tough.
“I think that’s really just the hardest part is not being able to see my kid and the rest of the kids,” says Douglas.
But in Cottelli’s classroom, out of sight is not out of mind.
Starting two weeks ago, her students and fellow teacher Lindsay Martin’s classes began a fundraiser called Miles for Matt.
It’s a mile-a-day walking challenge Cottelli once saw friend do to create a scholarship for a child she lost.
“I never met her daughter, they lived in North Jersey and I would walk and I would think of her daughter. So, when Matt was assigned to my class, I thought this is a perfect opportunity for the fundraiser,” says Cottelli.
The kids have taken ownership of the idea getting their families involved.
“It’s a commitment,” says student Olivia Nehmad. “You’re not just giving ten bucks and doing nothing; you’re committing.”
Another student Lyla Brown says, “I’m walking a mile every day.”
The way Miles for Matt works is you pay $10 to sign up, and every day between now and Christmas, you walk a mile.
If you miss a day, you have to pay a dollar, and hopefully come January, the classes will have raised quite a bit of money to help Matt and his family.
As Matt waits for a kidney donor, he says having the kids and teachers walk stride for stride with him through his disease is the best kind of medicine.
“It’s wonderful. They’re really my inspiration to get back,” says Douglas.
Anyone can donate and do the Miles for Matt challenge, you can find more information on Facebook.