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Westfield boy learns the true meaning of surviving illness

Westfield boy learns the true meaning of surviving illness
Reminder Publications submitted photo
Matthew Hastings (left) and Andrea Moore (right) laced up their shoes and bowled with members of the Boston Red Sox.
By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD At the 2007 New Stars for Young Stars fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund, an eight-year-old boy named Matthew Hastings noticed an unusual girl bowling with a member of the Boston Red Sox.
What struck Hastings as odd was not that she was bowling with a famous multi-million-dollar athlete because he knew he'd see them at the event. New Stars for Young Stars is an annual fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that unites Red Sox players with cancer patients, survivors, their families and the public for a day of autograph signings, bowling and pool. What did surprise Matthew, however, was that unlike all of the other girls he'd ever known, Andrea Moore of Sherborn, Mass., was bald.
"I asked my dad why [she was bald]," Hastings recalled in an interview with Reminder Publications.
His father, Bruce Hastings, replied that Moore was a leukemia patient and that the medicine used to treat her illness made her hair fall out. Through that conversation he learned that those who lost their hair could wear wigs made from real hair.
It was then that Hastings first began his yearlong journey to help others with cancer he chose to grow out his hair in order to donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to those 18 years of age or younger suffering from medical hair loss.
Longer than the 10 inches required by the charity, Matthew will have his haircut televised on the New England Sports Network (NESN) on Aug. 14 during the annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon.
"I wanted to help out so people don't make fun of kids without hair," Matthew said.
Bruce noted that his son has been teased, taunted and made fun of by other children.
"He's just finished his third grade year [at Paper Mill Elementary School] and a couple of older kids have teased him," Bruce explained. "There was an incident [at school] this spring of a friend who teased him. Every time he has had an incident I've offered to get his hair cut but he's doggedly determined to do it. He has a positively stubborn personality and refuses to give in. At first you think about it and it's just hair [but really] he's maturing before our eyes."
One year after meeting Andrea, Matthew reunited with her and her family to share his story of how she inspired him to grow his hair for Locks of Love.
Amy Moore, Andrea's mother, said that hearing Matthew's story this year made her eyes "well up with tears."
"Hopefully he will have an influence on other kids," she said. "[He's] just an amazing person. I wish a lot more people would realize how selfless he is. I am so proud of him. To give a gift of life to somebody whose life is being torn apart some other way is incredible."
Amy explained that Andrea, now 17 years old, was first diagnosed with cancer at age seven, adding that she was in remission for eight years and then relapsed.
Amy explained that prior to Andrea's last phase of treatment, her hair had grown long, full and blonde. "She had such a beautiful head of hair," she added."
Hair or no hair, Amy said her daughter doesn't care either way.
"With a girl who is bald as can be [she] could care less," she said. "She will not cover up the fact that she is bald. She just doesn't care that people look at her. It is because she has Downs [Down Syndrome] and people look at her anyway."
Amy described her daughter, who is one of five girls, as a fighter and a young woman who loves life.
"She doesn't expect boo from the world," Amy said.
She added that all her daughter wants is to watch sports, whether it's the Boston Red Sox or Boston Bruins.
Amy noted that Andrea has recently completed her final course of treatment.
She said she and her daughter can't wait to see Matthew get his hair cut in the NESN studio later this summer.
Matthew said as soon as his hair is cut he will begin growing it long again in order to make another donation.
The seventh annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon is a two-day event that has raised $12 million since its inception.
To make a donation to the Jimmy Fund during the telethon call 1-877-738-1234 or visit www.jimmyfundradiotelethon.org.