Many great organizations are working to prevent injuries,
yet not all accidents can be prevented, and traumatic injuries continue to
account for more childhood deaths than all other causes combined.
The Gfeller family learned how traumatic a helmet-to-helmet
hit in a high school football game could be. Sitting on the sidelines of their
son’s first varsity football game, Bob and Lisa Gfeller thought Matthew’s whole
life lay before them in nights like this. However, in only a matter of seconds,
their lives would change forever.
As his father recalls, “I don’t even remember seeing the
play. I just remember seeing him not get up. I remember turning to Lisa and
saying, ‘That’s Matthew and he’s not moving.’” Matthew, a sophomore linebacker,
had been tackled by a player on the opposing team. As a result of the hit, he
suffered a traumatic brain injury and died two days later, never regaining
consciousness to see the family and friends lovingly surrounding his hospital
After Matthew’s death, Bob and Lisa created the Matthew
Gfeller Foundation to help kids “play it safe” by providing information and
funding to prevent and treat sports-related traumatic brain injuries.
Matthew’s legacy lives on in many ways. Thanks in part to
funding from the Matthew Gfeller Foundation, the Childress Institute has
invested resources in two important head injury research studies: HITS and KIDS.
Both of these studies monitored and recorded the head impacts collegiate, high
school and youth football players received during a season. This data is
providing invaluable information to scientists as they work to discover how and
why traumatic brain injuries occur, which will lead them to new ways to prevent
and minimize these injuries.
On and off the football field, Matthew was frequently heard
saying “I won’t let you down.” By honoring Matthew’s memory, his parents and
others are keeping his promise.