He might have just been a small boy, but Matthew Wellbrock had a big heart, his parents said, and now that giving spirit will be honored by helping families in emergency situations.
His parents, Jeanna and Curtis Wellbrock, and Matthew’s five brothers and sisters gathered Tuesday afternoon at Hays Medical Center’s rock garden to introduce Matthew’s Gift, a program that will provide gift bags with snacks, toiletries and other items for families of those whose loved ones have to be transported to another hospital for emergency treatment.
Matthew’s Gift is a project of the Wonder Women League, which operates under the United Way of Ellis County and Hays Medical Center. The Hays Area Chamber of Commerce had a ribbon cutting with the announcement Tuesday.
The project was inspired by a similar gift the Wellbrocks received when Matthew was flown to Wesley Children’s Hospital in Wichita after what his mother called a freak accident on Sept. 11, 2016.
That day, 3-year-old Matthew had snuck outside to be with his father while he was mowing their yard in Victoria, but Curt sent him back inside through the garage. When the boy couldn’t be found about 15 minutes later, his parents searched and found him in the garage, trapped between the tailgate of their pickup truck and the garage door.
They called 911 and started CPR, and soon their house was filled with emergency responders, Jeanna told the crowd. Matthew was transported to Hays Med, where he was stabilized and the family was notified he would be flown to Wesley.
While in Wichita, a colleague of Jeanna ’s delivered a bag with toothbrushes, water bottles, snacks and other items.
“We had thrown some things in a bag before we took off, but we hadn’t hauled our suitcases into the hospital. That bag had every basic necessity we needed in it, and it was a huge blessing,” she said.
Matthew died two days after the accident.
Several months ago, the Wellbrocks started working with Nancy Jeter, co-chair of the Wonder Women League, to create Matthew’s Gift.
The group has sponsored two projects since being formed last year — the creation of the Born Learning Trail in Sunrise Park and a women’s self-defense workshop. A cyber security workshop is in the works.
“Our project that we’re the most proud of is the one we’re here today for,” Jeter said Tuesday.
The Wonder Women board of directors and membership “overwhelmingly approved” the project Jeter said, and began to seek out sponsors and raise funds.
Finding support was not difficult, Jeter’s co-chair, Rhonda Meyerhoff, said.
“It was easy to tell the Wellbrocks are well-loved and touched a lot of hearts,” she said.
Sponsors of Matthew’s Gift include the Wellbrocks’ business, D&L Body Shop, Hays Med, the Hays Med Foundation, and 13 businesses and organizations in the community.
The bags contain items such as a deck of playing cards, crayons, puzzle books, small snack bags, water bottles, toiletries, a small blanket and a gift card for gasoline.
Working with the Wellbrocks and the Wonder Women League was a “no-brainer,” Terry Siek, chief nursing officer and Vice President for patient care at Hays Med said.
Hays Med transfers six to 10 patients a month to other hospitals, Siek said. Matthew’s Gift fills a need to help families in a situation when they don’t have much time to prepare or even think about what they might need, he said.
He thanked the Wellbrocks for bringing the project to the hospital staff.
“It wasn’t something that we thought about on our own, and without (the Wellbrocks) it might have been awhile before we started doing this,” he said.
“That is one of the goals of the University of Kansas Health System this year, to give back to the community and support volunteerism,” he said.
That fits with Matthew’s spirit, Curt and Jeanna said after the event.
“Not matter what we were doing, Matthew was always there to help,” Curt said.
“Matthew was always a giver,” Jeanna said. “If he had one piece of candy he would give it away to his brother.”
“This was just a way for him to continue to help people out,” Curt said.