Athletes’ friend now on receiving end

Published 5:12 pm Friday, January 27, 2006

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Matty.
That's all you have to say and most people know who you're talking about. If you don't, you're about to get to know an amazing person.
Matthew “Matty” Kurtis has been a huge part of Brandywine High School athletics for over 20 years. A 1978 Bobcat graduate, he not only knows the school like the back of his hand, but the people of the community as well.
Matty is most known for the unselfish volunteer work he has put in for so long with the school. Whether he was setting up equipment for football or basketball games, taking admissions at the door or sitting in the dugout sneaking candy to softball players, Matty has made a huge impact to everyone he has ever met.
Recently, Matty was diagnosed with Lymphoma V cancer, which is in his neck and shoulders. He is undergoing mild chemotherapy treatments once a week at Lakeland Hospital, St. Joseph, which is where he has been for almost a month.
Matty had a kidney transplant 15 years ago, and the medication for that weakened his bones so he had to have a double hip replacement surgery not long after. He has also developed arthritis and has had knee problems. Therefore, a full dose of chemo cannot be given.
Despite all of these conditions, Matty has still touched many lives and always keeps a smile on his face.
Kelli first met Matty over six years ago while playing softball at the Niles-Brandywine Girls Softball Association. There, Matty was a manager for coach Gary Collins.
As Kelli made her way through school, Matty was always there, even at the high school level, where Matty is the manager for the Brandywine Bobcats softball team.
Kelli's sister, Kendra, has also known Matty for quite some time. She said that he is a very positive person and always a pleasure to be around.
Matty has also been a big part in helping a very special friend, Jim Myers, throughout the years. Myers, head coach of the Brandywine softball team and teacher at the high school, said that Matty's tremendous amount of work has helped him in a very big way.
Matty's relationship with Myers goes a lot further than just being a manager. Over the years, the two have formed a a special friendship, one that extends beyond the fields and dugouts.
Myers helped Matty get a place of his own at the Four Flags Plaza after years in foster care. At the apartments, Matty would deliver the Leader to the residents. He's also had a few jobs downtown like making candy at Veni's Sweet Shop, cleaning or working on fliers at Signal Travel and he helped out at the former Rowley's Shoe Store.
But the one thing he enjoys the most is helping with Brandywine athletics.
Though the only job he was paid for was taking tickets, Matty put more work and dedication into the programs than someone who would have made a million dollars.
Although Matty enjoys helping with all sports, he holds a special place in his heart for the Lady Cats' softball team. Quite possibly because of the relationship he has formed with Myers and the players.
Matty was known to sneak snacks and drinks to team members before and during games.
Matty is like this with everyone he knows. He always knows what to do to make people feel better. People describe him as a giver, never a taker, and a silent, selfless friend to everyone.
"He was our gatekeeper," Brandywine Athletic Director Vance Stratton said. "He helped out in any way possible and just did a whole lot of things for us."
While his absence has been noticed by everyone, Stratton said it will really hit home once the spring and fall seasons come around. "He was everywhere during these seasons, he just did so many things for these kids and coaches," Stratton added.
What the future holds for Matty is uncertain at this point, though Myers did say that as of Thursday, Matty was feeling better and getting some strength back.
Kendra last visited Matty on Saturday, the same day a surprise party was thrown for him.
Matty also has very strong support from his family members. He has two brothers, one from Texas and one from Boston who are both with him. He also has two sisters who live in Dowagiac.