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home : news : news Saturday, April 30, 2016

5/31/2014 Email this articlePrint this article 
Constant companion. Matt Grillot of DeWitt spends a little quality time with Max, a black Labrador mix he adopted in 2012. Grillot suffered a spinal cord injury when he was 6 years old and is in need of a wheelchair accessible van equipped with modified driving controls. Donations may be made at DeWitt Bank & Trust Co. or the parish office at St. Joseph Church in DeWitt. Photo by Kate Howes
How to help buy Wheels for Matt
Matt Grillot, a resident of DeWitt and a member of St. Joseph Church, is a quadriplegic and needs assistance to purchase a new van.

In 2010, his wheelchair accessible van equipped with modified driving controls was totaled in an accident.

A committee has formed to help Grillot raise the money he needs to purchase another vehicle.

Members have a goal of raising $22,000 by July 15. To date, they have raised about $16,000.

Donations may be made to Wheels for Matt and sent to DeWitt Bank & Trust Co., Attention: Joel Dieckmann, treasurer, or to the St. Joseph parish office.

Communities unite to help Grillot gain independence
The first to greet visitors at Matt Grillot's DeWitt home is his dog, Max.

His tail wagging, the black Labrador mix warmly welcomes everyone who stops by.

Grillot brought Max home in September 2012 after the DeWitt Police Department picked him up and no one claimed him.

Though he's not a service dog, Max is a faithful friend and loving companion to Grillot, who is a quadriplegic.

"I'm not sure who adopted whom," he says with a smile.

The pair often can be spotted around town together when Grillot takes Max for walks.

Grillot gave Max another chance at life, much like he was given - more than once - when he was a child.

Born to Ed and Chris, Grillot grew up southwest of Wheatland.

He was just 6 years old when he was playing, pretending to be the superhero Incredible Hulk and fell. With just two weeks left of kindergarten, Grillot sustained a spinal cord injury. He spent six weeks in rehab and learned to use a manual wheelchair.

Two years later, a stress ulcer in Grillot's stomach perforated - a condition that should've been fatal.

"I'm alive by the grace of God," Grillot shares. "There's no medical reason why I survived."

His childhood was spent in and out of hospitals. After his ulcer was perforated, Grillot was given a "temporary" tracheotomy that lasted five years. He spent another six months in rehab and began using a power wheelchair due to a loss of strength.

Grillot suffered from bouts of recurring pneumonia and worsening scoliosis led to a continue decline in his health, resulting in a 100-degree C curve as well as 25 percent lung function.

No matter what health issues he faced, Grillot always kept pace academically.

When he wasn't able to be in school, Grillot was tutored. He graduated in June 1995 from North Scott High School - the closest school district with buildings accessible to Grillot. That August, he enrolled at Iowa State University where he earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting.

When he was 20 years old, Grillot obtained his driver's license. After a four-year funding, designing and building process, he purchased a van modified to meet his needs.

Grillot moved to DeWitt in May 2003. He also joined St. Joseph Church parish where he came in contact with and got to know a number of caring, compassionate people.

After attending his first Christian Experience Weekend (CEW), Grillot became inspired.

"I knew I wasn't in it alone," he relates. "I had a lot of support."

Grillot became more involved with the church, volunteering his time teaching confraternity of Christian doctrine classes, or CCD, and reading scriptures during Mass.

He even felt called to the priesthood, to commit his life to prayer and service to God, the church and the community.

In August 2008, he entered Conception Seminary College in Missouri for the Diocese of Davenport.

En route to a dinner with his seminary classmates and chaplain in April 2010, Grillot was in an accident. While no one was injured, his van was totaled. The insurance company paid only $8,000 on the $60,000 vehicle.

Ever since, Grillot has been depending on others to drive him wherever he needs to go. While he's incredibly thankful for the help, he would like to purchase another van with a wheelchair lift and modified driving controls.

Grillot has been working from home, but would like to pursue employment in an office. He also wants to simply regain the independence most people without a disability take for granted.

However, financially speaking, getting another van is not something Grillot can do on his own.

Thanks to a committee of fellow parishioners and the generosity of area community members, he won't have to.

Stepping up to help

A group of people has established a fundraising campaign called Wheels for Matt.

While Grillot has contributed $16,000 of his own money toward the purchase of a new van, Steve, Don and Larry Fuglsang, Joel Dieckmann, Sue Risinger and Matt McGuire are helping him raise the additional $22,000 he will need for the vehicle.

In the past two months, the committee's efforts already have raised about $16,000.

While they still have a ways to go, Steve Fuglsang says he has every hope - with the help of area community members and churches - they will reach the goal.

"The donations have been phenomenal," he shares. "Matt's a good guy. Many of us have gotten to know him through the church and CEW. When he shared his aspirations to have a more fulfilling career and social life, we knew this was the right thing to do. We take for granted our own abilities, like walking. Every person who has donated knows this is going to a good place. This is going to improve his quality of life."

Grillot is grateful for their compassion and eagerness to see him regain his independence.

"I just want to give everyone a big thank you," he says. "I certainly could not have done this on my own. It's just wonderful."


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